Education
Flight Works Alabama opens

Despite the pandemic, Flight Works Alabama has opened its doors with its
hands-on exhibits and educational opportunities to pique interest in aviation.


  If you’ve ever wondered what goes on at the Airbus final assembly lines in Mobile,
Flight Works Alabama is here to explain it all.
  Flight Works Alabama, which opened Aug. 5, offers hands-on exhibits, educational
opportunities and workforce development. In the same building people can be virtual
pilots in the cockpit of an A320 commercial passenger jet, get technical certifications
for jobs in aerospace and aviation, or take classes related to education programs
from middle school through college.
  Although its startup has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Flight Works
Alabama should be both the hot new tourist attraction in Mobile and the cool new
school field trip.
  “We want to target middle and high school students because we want them to know
that there are other careers within the aerospace industry that they can look into
instead of pursuing a four-year college degree,” said Kayley Robinson, Flight Works
manager of marketing and communications.
  Flight Works Alabama is a cooperative effort among the Airbus Foundation, state
government and a group of educational partners and commercial sponsors. At its
most basic level, the facility at Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley is all about flight: how it
works, how to make it happen and how to build things that fly.
  The post-pandemic future includes tours of the A320 Final Assembly Line itself.
Robinson said the pandemic has delayed the start of the tours because of safety and
health regulations. For now, here are some of bigger exhibits:

  • A320 cockpit simulation has a pre-flight briefing, virtual reality takeoff, circle of
    Mobile and landing at Brookley.

  • A jet fighter simulation is available for a small extra charge.

  • Drone Aviary is an extra-charge obstacle course for bring-your-own flying
    drones.

  • VR Central is a virtual reality center to visit the International Space Station,
    explore the surface of Mars with the ExoMars Rover, or participate in a sea
    rescue aboard an Airbus H175 maritime helicopter.

  • In the Rivet Race, get a feel for driving rivets into the body of an airplane
    under timed conditions.

  • In Behind the Bulkhead, find out what’s inside the walls of a life-size A320.

  • The Aerodynamics Arcade lets visitors test basic aviation designs in a virtual
    aerodynamic test chamber.

  An example of other learning exhibits on site is one that features every tool used to
assemble a commercial jet, so that young people who might be interested in future
careers can try them out and learn their functions.
  The education component involving partnerships with school systems is still in
development because of COVID-19 and its impact on classroom learning and school
system schedules.
  Last year Airbus undertook FlightPath9, an after-school training program for high
school seniors leading to a second fast-track training program and careers with the
airplane manufacturer. But the program came to a halt when the pandemic shut down
schools.
  “The inaugural FlightPath9 class graduated from the first part of the program in
May,” Robinson said. “The students will continue their training with us through
December.
  “From September through December, the students will participate in the Airbus fast-
track program. In January, they will become full-time Airbus employees. Our goal is to
resume the FlightPath9 program in January or possibly next summer, pending
improvement of the public health crisis.”
  Weeklong camps for grades 7 through 12 are scheduled for three weeks beginning
Aug. 10. Beginning later in the month, “We are going to introduce virtual field trips,”
Robinson said. Again, COVID-19 precautions necessitate virtual field trips over at
least the short term.
  A great deal of information is available at www.flightworksalabama.com. Visitors will
need to sign up online for tickets in advance. “That way we can make sure we are
social distancing and have a certain number of people in the facility at one time,”
Robinson said.
  Visitor slots are available from 9 a.m. to noon and from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday
through Saturday.
  General admission is $13.50 for ages 10 and up, $9 for ages 4-9 and free for
children under age 4.
  Campers will have their temperatures taken daily, Robinson said.
  “We are wiping down all our surfaces throughout the day. Employees are required
to wear masks. Employee temperatures are taken before the start of each shift. We
have seven hand sanitation stations provided throughout the center.”
  Flight Works Alabama is closed Sunday and Monday.

- Jane Nicholes

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