The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Heidi Zemach
For The LOG 

Da Vinci Camp takes flight


Heidi Zemach | For The LOG

Twenty DaVinci Campers and their teachers packed into a Jayhawk H-60 helicopter from Air Station Kodiak during a field trip to Seward Airport on Friday.

Seward Boys & Girls Club DaVinci Science and Art Camp blasted off to a high start last week. Day campers spent their first week learning about flying. This summer's focus is "Motion Commotion" and for each of the four weeks, day campers study a different form of locomotion used for travel in nature, and compare it to its human counterpart.

Friday afternoon, on a field trip out to the Seward Airport, the campers shot off decorative rockets that they made from plastic bottles with soda water in them. They were delighted as their bottles shot high up into the air, after they pumped compressed air into them. They also did various yoga balance poses mimicking birds in flight, with Justine Pechuzal the camp's master artist and a local yoga instructor.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and certainly the Boys & Girls Club gets a lot of outside help to make the camper's experiences more relevant.

As the group traipsed across the delicate wetlands toward the airstrip to meet him, long-time Alaska pilot Dennis Hamilton arrived overhead in the Jay 3 Piper Cub that he rebuilt over the course of two winters and painted with colors and stripes to resemble a World War II-era plane used in Africa. Hamilton, who has been flying for 40 years, explained that his aircraft dated back to 1938, and had been in the air longer than their grandparents had been alive. What would he do if someone was shooting at him and his plane caught fire? Why, jump out, of course, he replied. With a parachute? That would be nice, but unfortunately, he doesn't always carry one. Luckily, none of his planes have caught fire in the air, he said.

As they talked, a small helicopter arrived nearby dropping off tourists who had been dog mushing on Exit Glacier. Minutes later it departed with another group. It did a couple of insect-like acrobatic maneuvers before taking off, which the campers found "awesome."

A Coast Guard H-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Kodiak was also on the air strip near Hamilton's Piper Cub while its crew were taking their lunch. They were on duty patrolling the Copper River Red salmon fishery, and flew to Seward to gas up. Jaws dropped and the children's faces lit up as a handsome, smiling four-man crew of Coasties strode toward them in their coordinated uniform-orange flight pants.

Coast Guard Lt. Tony Lumpkin was happy to show them the helicopter he co-piloted, to describe all of its parts and each of their functions, and tell them the science of how the helicopter flew. The Jayhawk takes 1,000 gallons to fill up and can fly for six hours with no potty breaks, he said. He described what it carried including inflatable life vests, back boards, reheating blankets, dewatering pumps, a rescue basket. The crew also had night vision goggles, flares, strobes, mirrors, whistles – all of the equipment needed to enable them to fly through snowstorms and windstorms rescuing people, he said. His enthusiasm for his job, admiration for the helicopter, its equipment, and the skill of fellow crew members was real, even as it mirrored that of the impressionable young campers.

Lumpkin let a few of the children try on the helmets and life vests, but not the expensive night vision goggles, which he demonstrated on himself. Finally, he allowed everyone to bundle inside. Twenty-two people squished inside for a photo. The record number of people fitting in a Jayhawk is 36, he said.

Heidi Zemach | For The LOG

Seward DaVinci Camp Science and Art campers got a tour of a Jayhawk H-60 helicopter from it's co-pilot, Lt. Tony Lumpkin, who explained how it worked, and all its bells and whistles.

Air Station Kodiak responded to about 160 search and rescue calls last year, crewmembers said. They're very busy, especially during the summertime when they rescue fishermen and recreational boaters in trouble at sea, people stuck on remote islands and other wilderness areas, and perform medevacs from Alaska's rural villages. The air station currently operates six H-60 Jayhawks, five C-130s, and four H-65 Dolphins.

Not long after the tour, the Jayhawk lifted up like a dragonfly and moved off down the airstrip, away from the buildings and people, its rotor blades creating a delightful din. For the benefit of the children waving below the crew spun it around several times before heading out over Resurrection Bay toward the Copper River to resume their patrol.

The DaVinci Camp continues through June. It is funded by the Rasmuson Foundation's Arts in Education Fund, under contract by the Alaska State Council on the Arts, and Seward Community Foundation.


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