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Area Scouts earn badge at Connellsville airport

| Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Lori C. Padilla | for Trib Total Media
Area Boy Scouts were able to acquire their Aviation Merit badges through instruction at the Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport in Dunbar Township. Navigation, signage and other facets of flying were demonstrated and experienced by Scouts from surrounding troops. Matthew Pirl (left), Seth Durst and Collin Trout look over the instrument board and steering wheel while instructor Dan Schiffbauer and pilot Mark Skoric (in window) explain how they all work together.

A Boy Scout can earn more than 130 merit badges, covering everything from pottery to archery.

A large group of approximately 20 worked together on a recent Tuesday at the Joseph A. Hardy/Connellsville Airport in Dunbar Township to earn their aviation merit badge.

The Scouts spent the morning and part of the afternoon learning about aviation, while hearing about potential jobs in the field.

“We have about 20 Scouts from all over here today,” badge instructor and Connellsville Flying Club member Dan Schiffbauer said of the group from the Old Trails District.

“They are from all over the county (Fayette) and also from Westmoreland County.”

The event, held in honor of National Aviation Day, has been offered at the airport for the past several years. Schiffbauer said it's a big draw for the local Scouts.

“I keep the group to 20 and it fills up,” Schiffbauer said. “Last year we had two classes because the interest was so high.”

The Scouts started the day with a presentation on the background and history of aviation that also included films of different types of engines and planes.

“I was really interested to come here today because my brother is an airplane mechanic,” 10-year-old Seth Durst of Troop 150, Scottdale, said.

The Scouts also were taken to the STAT MedEvac building and helicopter pad at the airport and listened to a presentation there.

Pilots for STAT MedEvac must have a minimum of 2,000 hours of flight time to become part of the unit. They reportedly answer a little over 700 flight calls a year.

“We are a unique branch here and we get to see a lot of unique bases,” flight paramedic Bob Haddad said.

In addition, the Scouts learned the mechanics of an airplane and careers in that field.

“Being a mechanic is a great way to get involved with aviation if you aren't interested in flying a plane,” Schiffbauer said.

For those interested, Scouts were given a ride in the clouds at the end of the day.

Mark Skoric, certified flight instructor, told the group that becoming a licensed pilot or even just enjoying the experience of learning to fly are not as far out of reach as most people think.

“People don't realize that there is no age restriction on taking lessons,” Skoric said. “You can be 5 years old, and if you can see out, you can take a lesson. As long as you're with an instructor, you can learn to fly.”

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer.

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