- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Amy Houle Caruso loves meetings. And, she’d like to see droves of St. Mary’s County residents spend a few Saturdays at meetings that she hopes will leave them feeling just as enthusiastic as she does.
Caruso, an events coordinator at Patuxent River Naval Air Museum, recently created the “Meet the Airplane” series — not your typical conference room snoozer.
Every other month, the museum plans to bring in food vendors, live music and introduce visitors to a different airplane that engineers and program teams have developed at Pax River. Visitors can walk around, pose questions to the experts who develop or maintain the aircraft and explore the rest of the museum.
“It’s the conduit for sharing all the good stuff that’s happening,” Caruso said.
The museum hopes to “bring in people who wouldn’t normally come,” Caruso said. “I want to see the kids get excited about this. I think this base is one of the coolest places to work and I want to share that with the community.”
Recently, visitors met the E-2. The $80 million airplane has two engines — each with 5,100 shaft horsepower, and the capacity to fly at 345 miles per hour. It conducts surveillance, search and rescue missions and helps Navy pilots distinguish friends from foes.
Next month, the museum will highlight the X-47, a prototype of an unmanned aircraft that has duped people across the United States into thinking they’ve seen a UFO. The more modern version, the X-47B, reached a milestone last month, pas it launched from an aircraft carrier, the Harry S. Truman, based in Norfolk, Va. Teams at Pax River tested the aircraft before delivering it to the ship.
The X-47B “takes off, flies a preprogrammed mission, then returns to base in response to mouse clicks from its mission operator,” according to a statement from Northrop Grumman Corp., the contractor that designed and produced the aircraft. An operator can monitor the X-47B, but doesn’t fly it by remote control, which is the case for other unmanned aircraft, Northrop Grumman said. It’s also scheduled to begin “autonomous refueling” work in 2014.
“Most people see those airplanes out there and say, ‘I wonder what it does,’” said Ed Forsman, president of the museum’s board of directors. And, there’s no better place to get the answers, he said. “This is the home of naval aviation.”
Forsman is a retired Navy test pilot. He’s flown the E-2. And, he remembers noticing an unmanned aircraft while he was on a mission over the Chesapeake Bay many years ago and “chasing that thing around,” he said laughing.
Many people in the community have a connection to aircraft and programs on base, Forsman said. The Meet the Airplane series gives them a chance to see the aircraft up close. “Why not make a party of it?” he asked?
The series is scheduled to continue while work on the new museum begins. Construction of the new building is scheduled to be complete by October. Tentatively, a grand opening is scheduled for March 2014, Forsman said.
The museum needs to talk more about the work taking place there, and nearby at Pax River, Caruso said. “What we do is hard. We do it really well,” she said. “In this little corner of the world, we really have some serious, advanced technologies.”