For many, summer camp in Maine brings to mind outdoor adventure in the state’s natural beauty. But for two decades, youngsters have had an entirely different camp opportunity, one that opens the vast world of aviation careers. Maine ACE (Aviation Career Education) Camps offer its participants an inside look at the military and commercial aviation systems, including the chance to go up in a variety of aircraft. It is an exhilarating and unique chance to see aviation first hand, says Camp Director Pete Marucci, and there are still openings for youngsters who would like to register.
Maine ACE Camps have two divisions. Maine ACE Camp North is an overnight camp for students aged 14-18. Marucci says the week-long experience gives participants exposure to many facets of aviation. It will be held Sunday, July 22 to Saturday, July 28. Maine ACE Camp South is a day camp for youngsters aged 12-16, based at Brunswick Executive Airport, to be held August 1 to August 4.
“We feel that we give them a well-rounded look at the aviation industry,” Marucci says. The ACE North Camp includes a visit to many areas of the Bangor International Airport, including air traffic control facilities, airport firefighting facilities, and they hear from the airport manager, Marucci says. Youngsters visit the Army Guard, which “takes them right through all the helicopter operations,” he says, including a flight on a Blackhawk helicopter. In addition, assuming proper security clearance, youngsters board an Air National Guard Maineiacs KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft to observe a high-altitude refueling mission.
“They’re hooking up to another airplane 40 feet away,” Marucci says.
The camp education offered is multi-faceted. Classroom lessons address camp safety, aviation history, theory of flight, basic aerodynamics, introduction to aircraft, and spatial disorientation. Campers also tour local airports, aviation museums, aircraft repair businesses, aerial photography operations, the NASA Challenger Learning Center, and Air and Army National Guard bases.
Maine ACE North campers also ride along on water landings and takeoffs in floatplanes, Marucci says. Volunteer pilots contribute their expertise and equipment for a full day of floatplane flying, topped off with a cookout and conversation among campers and pilots.
Campers enrolled in the Maine ACE North program stay at Camp Roosevelt, a Boy Scout Camp in Eddington. Recreation time is offered each evening.
ACE South campers also have a broad exposure to aviation careers. They have a seaplane day in Naples, Marucci says, and they also spend a day at the Portland Jetport, including a behind-the-scenes look at the TSA. ACE South campers also spend time with hobbyists in Scarborough who operate radio-controlled airplanes, he says.
Aviation careers will be increasingly plentiful in coming years, Marucci says, citing one statistic that there will be one million aviation job openings worldwide by 2021, including pilots and a broad range of other aviation careers.
The Maine ACE camps offer kids an up-close look at what those careers might be, Marucci says. Camp staff members have strong aviation backgrounds and are part of “a warm and great community.”
“I’ve flown all over the East Coast in my little airplane,” he says.
Marucci worked as a jet mechanic for 26 years in Portland. Now a campground owner in Naples, he says that during his mechanics career he bought his seaplane and learned to fly. He has been involved with ACE camps for about a dozen years. The organization has been a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization for about a decade, he says.
“We really think that what we have to offer children is to see what they can do as a career,” he says. “I keep telling them if they find something they love to do they’ll never work a day in their life.”
Maine ACE North camp tuition is $750 for the week. Maine ACE South camp tuition is $325. Registration information is available at http://www.maineacecamp.org.