Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bonnie Olson's Docent Life @ Museum of Flight

This article first appeared in the March-April 2013 Aloft Magazine  of the Seattle Museum of Flight.
Bonnie Olson’s careers have come full circle. In 1984 she left one, teaching, and began a second, Human Resources in the aerospace industry. Following her 2008 retirement she returned to teaching, after a fashion, when she joined the MOF volunteer team “educating” visitors about the MOF collections.  
Now, as a Saturday AM docent, she is enjoying her new teaching time “…with the best group of docents at the Museum.”
“When I was new to the Saturday group everyone went out of their way to provide me with tips and make me feel welcome. Now we arrive at 9:00 and laugh and talk until 9:30 when they try to calm us down and put us to work,” she reports with a laugh.
Bonnie has been near the aerospace industry for nearly 30 years. Her HR work, in California and Washington, was with industry subcontractors for commercial and space programs. Along the way she married Nick Olson, a 35 year veteran of Douglas & McDonnell Douglas.
Upon retirement she began her volunteer work at the MOF. While waiting for a docent class she posed, in costume, as a Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) in the Personal Courage Wing. To prepare for the “role” she immersed herself in “WASP” research so she could properly explain the WASP role in World War II aviation.
Completing docent training she joined the Saturday AM team. Her favorite assignment is the main gallery. It offers a rich variety of aircraft with displays that appeal to a full range of guest interests from the Wright Flyer to the MD71 Blackbird.
In addition to her Saturday work she has assisted with galas and lent a hand in the HR and Membership departments. She is a member of the Docent Leadership Council and is currently working with docent Fred Quarnstrom developing a program for the visually impaired.
Like most docents she enjoys interacting with MOF guests and is often amazed at all she can learn from the many well informed visitors. She recalls one 12 year old who was an “expert” on the B-29 and quite upset that the MOF plane was “cocooned” and unavailable for tour. When told there was simply no indoor space for display he offered his own, simple solution: Hang it in the Main Gallery.
Bonnie has contributed 1100 volunteer hours to the MOF to date and has no interest in slowing down.
“I love what I do here,” she says with enthusiasm.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

When Green Was a Color, Not a Life Style

I didn't write this; I wish I had. But anyone who remembers the Mickey Mouse Club and Leave it to Beaver should appreciated it.

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, "We didn't have this 'Green' thing back in my earlier days."

The clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations."

She was right -- our generation didn't have the "Green" thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn't have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning lots of watts -- wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right; we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she's right; we didn't have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn't have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn't it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?

Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smartass young person.

Remember: Don't make old People mad. We don't like being old in the first place, so it doesn't take much to piss us off.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Helo to Fixed Wing; Platt Has Flown Them All.

The following profile appeared in the May/June Aloft, a publication of the Seattle Museum of Flight.

Having flown a range of aircraft, from helicopters to B-52’s, Docent Jim Platt brings a unique viewpoint the MOF. He can draw on his 28 years of USAF flying and ten years at Boeing to enhance the MOF visitor experience.

With an ROTC commission Jim completed pilot training in 1966 and, based in Florida, began flying CH3C helicopters in support of the Manned Space Program and the Eastern Test Range. It was an exciting time to be a part of the space program. Sadly he recalls being an on call pilot the day of the tragic Apollo One fire that took the lives of astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee.

He then went from putting men in space to plucking them out of jungles. Moving to a base Thailand in 1967 he flew 98 missions as a Rescue Crew Commander in a HH3E “Jolly Green” rescue helicopter. His flying took him into Laos on occasions where, for the record, they never went. Nine downed airmen owe their survival to Jim’s aircrew.

Responding to a shortage of qualified pilots the Air Force retrained Jim and placed him in the cockpit of a C-141 transport and, eventually, in a B-52 with SAC. His flying career earned him, among other recognitions, a Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross, each with an Oak Leaf Cluster.

After a career mixed with flying and staff positions in places like Hq 8th Air Force, Hq SAC Jim retired and moved to Boeing. After ten years working in flight certification he retired again and then, to get out from under his wife’s feet, joined the Docent crew in 2009 as a Thursday regular. He particularly enjoys working the Personal Courage Wing. He loves it when visitors challenge his knowledge with questions. “It shows they are interested,” he says.

He also enjoys working with other docents who have incredible life stories. One was a P-38 pilot in World War II while another fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

He was honored to join an MOF panel of Vietnam era veterans to discuss their experiences during the war. He feels it is important to recognize the sacrifice so many made at that time.

Three of his four kids caught the flying/service bug. One is a Lt. Commander in the Coast Guard Reserve, married to an F-16 pilot. A second is a USAF Major and Predator Operator, married to a British Tornado pilot. Jim’s son is with the FAA.

Jim’s own words say a lot about his passion for aviation. “I got to live my dream. I have nothing but fond memories.”

Diana Heaton, Docent on the Go, Museum of Flight Seattle

The following profile appeared in the Jan/Feb issue of Aloft, the magazine of the Seattle Museum of Flight.

Diana Heaton, a retired IBM’er, likes to be active. She’s been a ski patroller, autocross racer and is still a competition water skier. And she loves to be around vintage aircraft. That is what drew Diana and her husband Dick to the MOF docent program nearly six years and 1200 volunteer hours ago. Diana is at the MOF each Sunday working the stations and leading tours. Her favorite assignment is the Personal Courage wing. As she puts it, “there is just something about those planes!”

In addition to her Sunday hours she has worked on women’s exhibits and enjoyed researching and writing some of the biographies for the “Chasing Horizons: Women in Aerospace” exhibits.

While Diana enjoys sharing her aviation knowledge with others she values the MOF as a personal learning resource for herself. Thirsting to expand her own knowledge base she takes advantage of every opportunity to learn from other volunteers and to attend MOF educational programs.

She and Dick take their interest in aviation with them when they travel. They have made several trips to the Reno Air Races and have thrilled to see and hear the P-51 fighters flash by. To have seen the planes in the air makes standing by the MOF’s new P-51 in the Personal Courage Wing very special.

They have also traveled across England on an aviation history tour, visiting sites that were important to British aviation heritage. A highlight of the trip was a visit to the Duxford Air Show at the Duxford “Aerodrome,” a field that dates back to World War I and is a part of the Imperial War Museum family of sites. “Duxford” is to the British what the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is to Americans. For Diana one of the most inspiring moments at the show was a fly over of ten throaty Spitfire aircraft, loved by all “Brits” for their role in the air Battle of Britain.

The MOF is fortunate to have committed women, like Diana, in the docent corp helping to enrich the visitor experience, one visitor at a time.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Comet Restoration Moves Forward; Hood Leads the Way

The following article by Stephen Dennis appeared in the November/December 2010 edition of Aloft, a publication of Seattle's Museum of Flight.

Bob Hood loves the Comet; the de Havilland Comet Mk4C, that is, currently at the MOF Restoration Center at Paine Field. He is about to celebrate his 15th anniversary with the Comet restoration team, which he now leads. In nearly 25 years he has amassed over 18,000 volunteer hours and adds another 26 hours working three days each week.

His passion pours forth as he explains the Comets many design innovations as the very first successful jet powered airliner. Structural issues with the first model tarnished its reputation in the industry but failed to alter his opinion.

“This plane was designed by inspired people. Restorers that recognize the creativity of the original builders love to work on this plane,” he says as he points out yet another Comet innovation.

Bob first volunteered on the Boeing 247D in 1986. He believes the 247D was as innovative in the 1930’s as the Comet was in the early 1950’s; one with propellers and the other with jets. One of the highlights of his MOF time was watching the restored 247D take flight.

Bobs’s interest in aircraft restoration developed late in life. In 1965, with a degree in electrical engineering, he joined the leading edge Fairchild Semiconductor Company. He managed their automotive products group exploring ways to integrate new electronic controls in the auto industry.

He did acquire a pilots license and owned a four place Navion “A” followed by an “A” Model Beech Bonanza.
His flying interest took a new course in 1986 when he toured the Restoration Center with a professional group. He was hooked. While he is the current Comet Project Manager he is quick to point out that literally hundreds of individuals have devoted time and energy to the project. In 2002 they did a tally and identified over 125 volunteers who had worked on the plane up to that time. He estimates that more than a hundred names could easily be added to the roster by now. And that doesn’t include the many supporters he has found in the United Kingdom who have helped with parts, advice and encouragement.

His leadership philosophy? Point out what needs to be done and then get out of the way.

The most frequent question he is asked? When will it be done?

The cockpit and first class sections are nearly complete. The aft cabin is coming along nicely. But much remains to be done and, he is quick to point out, new volunteers are always welcome.

When the work is done, the record will be clear that Bob Hood played a big role in its completion.

Air Force One and the Concord; A Docent Love Affair

The following article by Stephen Dennis appeared in the September/October 2010 edition of Aloft, a publication of Seattle's Museum of Flight.

Rick Wheeler loves airplanes. They are in his blood. His late father flew for Hawaiian Air, one brother currently flies for them and a second brother builds planes for Boeing.

A developmental disability keeps Rick from flying planes but nothing can keep him away from them. In five years at the MOF he has amassed over 500 volunteer hours. Most of that time has been spent in the Air Park where he devotes two days a week to cleaning either Air Force One or the Concord. Rich Lynch, Air Park Lead, reports that, “Rick is hard working, reliable and very fun to work with. On Air Force One days Rick wears his Air Force One hat and conducts a pre-cleaning walk around the plane in pre-flight fashion. On Concord days he always arrives in his British Air jacket.”

One day, when the Plexiglas was removed for cockpit cleaning, Rick posed in the Air Force One pilot’s seat in a cowboy hat doing his best LBJ imitation. He is particularly proud of that photo.

It’s a 90 minute bus ride from his home to the MOF so Rick makes the most of his time upon arrival. Following his Air Park work he is often found in the control tower or the Personal Courage Wing. His current favorite in the PC Wing is the P-51 and he is saving his money to fulfill a dream in 2011; a flight in the B-17, Liberty Bell.

His volunteer work around the biplane concession has earned him several rides over Seattle and he gives each of his nieces and nephews a biplane ride upon graduation from high school. He has even done a tandem jump from a plane in Hawaii.

His plane passion continues when he is away from the MOF. He maintains a museum quality collection of aircraft and airline pins which he once displayed in the hobby area of the Puyallup Fair. He collects tail numbers in little spiral notebooks and, according to Lynch, if you want to know anything about a particular plane, just give Rick the tail number.

Rick Wheeler, with the support of his “flying family,” demonstrates there are no limits to the volunteer opportunities at the MOF.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Museum of Flight; Support for Aviation Education

This article appeared in the July/August issue of "Aloft" a publication of Seattle's Museum of Flight.

The Museum of Flight is dedicated to serving learners of all ages. To maintain an “educational edge” Museum leadership depends on the thoughtful and enthusiastic input of the Educational Leaders Advisory Board or ELAB. Made up of educators, government and industry representatives, ELAB volunteers devote countless hours to the Museums educational programs and have played a valuable role in keeping the programs fresh and focused.

Michael and Jessica van Son, brother and sister, bring two very different perspectives to the ELAB and illustrate the type of talent volunteering their energy to the board.

Combining a business degree with a love of science Michael works as a metrologist with Lockheed Martin in Silverdale, Washington. In addition to his ten years on the ELAB he volunteers hundreds of hours with Kitsap County school science initiatives.

According to Seth Margolis, Director of Education Programs for the Museum, “Michael represents the aerospace/engineering industry on ELAB. He brings that big picture view point to the board. He understands how our programs intersect with the industry side of the education and guides us to consider their role in the larger field---that student experiences at the Museum are not simply static but that they lead into further discovery and inspiration to explore the STEM fields as careers.”

Jessica, a Longview area special education teacher, brings her students on an annual visit to the MOF. Four years ago she was encouraged to join the ELAB to bring her energy, interest in scientific education and understanding of special needs students to the Museum.

“As a teacher, Jessica brings a formal education perspective to ELAB,” said Margolis. “She can view our programs from the end-user side of the equation. She understand how they relate to the school system and what we need to do to ensure that they meet the scholastic needs of the audience while also being enjoyable, rigorous, and age appropriate. She allows us to hear directly from our constituents. Jessica has also been a Washington Aerospace Scholars residency program counselor for two years and thus is intimately involved in all of our programs.”

The most visible Museum volunteers are the docents who are present in the Museum everyday, interacting with visitors. The ELAB volunteers perform their service “behind-the-scenes” to insure the educational component of the Museum vision stays relevant for the regions life-long learners of all ages. Jessica and Michael are excellent examples of the quality and passion of the ELAB members.