Black Friday Aviation Inspiration

By Scott Spangler on November 28th, 2022

Every seven years, Thanksgiving and my birthday get together on the same day. My oldest boy and his family made the 10-hour drive from Missouri to deliver themselves as the best present I could have ever hoped for, and that included Boomer, their 2-year-old Labrador. As my son walked out the kinks of this terrestrial journey, he said that with a Bearhawk 5, the object of his aviation desires, it would have taken two trips to get everyone and their baggage to Oshkosh, but it still would have taken less time than driving.

As we digested our Thursday feast with contented thanks, we suggested ways we could focus and consume the interest and energy of three grandsons, ages 5, 7, and 11. (Their older brother, a high school junior, was spending the holiday with his father.) Recalling his first exploration of the EAA Aviation Museum when he was 7, he said we had no other option than a return to this inspiring playground. I’m not sure who was more excited, my son or my grandsons.

Eyes grew wide and mouths fell open as we entered the museum’s atrium where six bright biplanes flew, the three Pitts Specials flown by the Red Devils Aerobatic Team, and the three Christen Eagles that replaced the Pitts and changed the team’s name. Admission paid (just $31 for the family of five; my current membership card got me in free), the docents offered the boys a scavenger hunt. If they could find and record all the individual letters on the airplane exhibits pictured on both sides of the sheet and decode the message they spelled out, each of them would earn a prize.

They were off and walking fast, their heads swiveling this way and that. Following the docent’s instructions, they shared their discoveries but didn’t ask their parents or grandpops for any help. Working our way down the entry level toward the Eagle Hangar, where we would head downstairs to find the letters associated with the airplanes they spotted from above, the scavenger hunt was forgotten, blown away by the pneumatic whoosh of the airlock entrance to the KidVenture Gallery.

They got hands-on with every exhibit and climbed into the F-22 and T-28 cockpit procedure trainer. And there was no waiting line because on Black Friday, we essentially had the museum to ourselves. At most there were three other families there. The announcement at 4:35 p.m. that the museum would be closing in 25 minutes motivated the Spanglers to conclude their J-3 Cub flights on the squadron of Microsoft Flight Simulator cubicles so the boys could complete the scavenger hunt, although I had a feeling that none of them would have complained about being locked in the museum overnight.

During dinner, the boys talked about what they’d seen and done that day and proudly pocketed their magnetic scavenger hunt rewards. It was one of those moments that made grandparenthood special, and I hoped that the memories we made this Black Friday would be lasting. It has been for my two boys, and the text message I got from my son when they arrived safely at home suggests the same may be true for my grandsons. It seems that they dedicated 2 hours or so of their drive home talking about airplanes. Who knows what time will bring? Maybe seven years from now, when Thanksgiving and my birthday again share the same day, perhaps my younger son and his family, which introduced the first granddaughter to our clan, will travel north for dinner and another Black Friday inspiration. –Scott Spangler, Editor

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One Response to “Black Friday Aviation Inspiration”

  1. Rob Says:

    An excellent reason for a 10-hour drive if ever I heard it Scott. Thanks for another great story.

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