Aviation Program Comes to Hawai‘i Island Schools

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Photo courtesy of Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor

More than 500 sixth graders on Hawai‘i Island are learning the science behind aviation thanks to a program, which brings members of the Pacific Aviation Museum’s Barnstorming Program to classrooms in Hilo, Pahoa and Pahala.

The term “barnstorming” refers to a style of stunt piloting that was performed in the 1920’s to showcase pilots’ skills and the sturdiness of the planes they flew.

Pacific Aviation Museum’s Barnstorming Program was developed in 2008 by staff at the museum in collaboration with educators and science advisors from University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, and since its inception, has reached over 26,000 sixth graders in their classrooms on ‘Oahu, Maui, and Kaua‘i.

The 90-minute curriculum is aligned to the Hawai‘i State Content Standards for grade 6 and uses:


Table-top experiments where students are introduced to the two most important concepts in the science of aviation: Newton’s Third Law of Motion and Bernoulli’s Principle.

A portable wind tunnel that allows students to manipulate an airfoil inside a working wind tunnel via remote control. Students see the effects that airflow can have on a wing, and how different velocities of the airstream can change a wing’s reaction to their controller inputs. Students discover how scientists and engineers use wind tunnels to design and test objects people use daily.

A P-40 flight simulator that allows students to take control of a flying machine. The flight simulator allows students to operate the control surfaces (rudder, elevators and ailerons) that they learned about in the initial presentation, and decide what stick or pedal inputs they will need to obtain their desired movements. Student aviators fly the P-40 through several scenarios, including takeoff, landing, basic control familiarization as well as pursuit and dogfight maneuvers.

Costs incurred to bring the program and equipment to Hawai‘i Island is being underwritten by a $5,000 grant from Boeing.


“Aviation plays such an important role in our everyday lives, from an economic and social point of view, to protecting our nation from harm,” said Shauna Tonkin, director of education, Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor. “Our Barnstorming Program is designed to incorporate all elements of science, technology, engineering and mathematics through interesting and hands-on activities that not only help students understand the scientific principles of flight, but also introduces aviation and aeronautical engineering as a viable career. We hope to continue taking this program on the road to students throughout Hawai‘i. Our ability to do this is based on the generous support we receive from businesses and foundations, such as Boeing.”









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