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Aviation Awareness Day Helps Love of Flying Take Off at University Park Airport

by on August 24, 2014 10:02 AM

The propellers of a vintage B-17 bomber roared to life at the University Park Airport on Saturday morning, filling the runway with the sounds of rushing air and burning fuel.

“Look, Mommy, it’s taking off!” shouted Kyle Rotthoff, 2, from his parent’s arms.

Jessica Rotthoff, Kyle’s mother, says the toddler has a love for all vehicles – but flying machines hold a special place of interest for him. Because of this, she was excited to be able to bring him to the annual Aviation Awareness Day at the airport.

In addition to the World War II bomber, families enjoyed a pancake breakfast, working model planes and collection of planes that were smaller than the massive war machine beside them.

“Having something like this really gets people engaged,” Kyle’s father, Eric Rotthoff, says. “It lets people come and see the things that they’re interested in up close.”

Though Shannon Steele, 15, was still getting over getting up early on a Saturday, she seemed excited for the chance to see so many planes up close.

“It’s really cool to be able to go inside and look at all these different planes,” she says. “It’s a really unique opportunity.”

While eating breakfast in a hanger at the end of the runway, Laura Steele – Shannon’s mother – says she was reminded of a family tradition before they moved here from Illinois. They used to go to eat breakfast at a restaurant at the nearby airport to watch the planes taking off while they ate. She says she’s glad that they’re able to continue that in some way now that they’ve moved to State College.

Beth Lerew, a customer service representative with the airport, says she’s glad for the chance to help inspire a love of aviation in a younger generation. 

“Once you get the bug and fall in love with airplanes and all that goes along with that, it becomes a lifelong passion,” she says. “If we can share that with people, then that feels really good.”


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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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