Column

Club Chronicles: Aviation Club and a trip to SFO 

by Will Li (’23) | November 18, 2022

Photography by Abhijit Nambiar (’24)

While a vast majority of commuters may consider flight merely another mode of transportation, there’s more to aviation than TSA PreCheck lines and soggy inflight meals. At Saint Francis, Aviation Club members explore aspects of aviation often overlooked by travelers, from aircraft models throughout history to potential careers within the industry.

Founded in 2021, the club aims to introduce students to aviation through events such as guest speakers and movie nights. “We want to have aviation-related activities and make them fun,” explained president Krish Agarwal (’23).

On October 7, 2022, club members traveled to the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) for a morning of learning about aviation history and the airport’s behind-the-scenes operations. Led by Agarwal and chaperoned by Mr. Baron Cannon and moderator Mr. Brian Wahl, the aviation enthusiasts visited the airport’s Aviation Museum, Emergency Operations Center, SkyTerrace, and other locations.

“You can think of [the trip] almost like a retreat for the club,” explained Agarwal. “We talked to each other; we bonded over the same topic for a solid four hours.”

At the SFO Aviation Museum, club members viewed a trove of exhibits about aviation history, from a miniature model of a 1960s Douglas DC-8 with an exact replica of the aircraft’s interior—a favorite of many members—to a set of flight attendant uniforms from different eras that showcased their evolution. “Seeing these relics of a bygone era of flight and of air travel was brilliant,” recounted Cannon, who added that he felt like “a kid in a candy store.”

“My favorite part of the museum was probably the archives, with all the different paper materials like the sick bags and the inflight menus,” added Alexander Gklaros-Stavropoulos (’25), “We also got to see the original lease for the [airport] property, which was very interesting.” 

Marvin B. Valdez (’23) enjoyed viewing the various aircraft models on display, and Sophia Tabery (’26) appreciated seeing “where we were in the past and where we’re going in the future.” Wahl found the museum’s architectural design, which mirrors that of the airport’s 1937 passenger terminal, “beautiful.”

Following the museum visit was a stop at the SFO Emergency Operations Center, where an airport emergency operations specialist spoke about security measures, emergency response procedures, and SFO’s day-to-day inner workings. Rishabh Anand (’26) enjoyed the various live camera views of the airport displayed on screens around the operations room, and Gklaros-Stavropoulos felt that an important takeaway from the session was that being a pilot is just one of the many ways to become involved in the aviation industry. 

After the operations center, the aviation enthusiasts continued to the SkyTerrace, an observation deck affording bird’s-eye views of the runways. The views “give you a sense of how large [SFO’s] operations are,” described Abhijit Nambiar (’24). “It’s pretty cool to get an unobstructed view of a lot of things because normally if you’re in the terminal, it’s quite difficult.”

Reflecting on the trip as a whole, Ned Righellis (’23) commented, “I really enjoyed my time. I had some great takeaways, and I’m planning on going back to the museum.” 

“It definitely exceeded my expectations,” added Agarwal. “I think people are taking our club more seriously now because they see that we have more activities as opposed to just regular meetings.”

Notably, Agarwal organized the SFO trip himself, managing all communications with SFO staff. The planning began in March 2022 when “I emailed many different places like the Oakland and San Jose airports and even some YouTubers and bloggers. But I didn’t get responses from many,” he explained. Even after SFO replied to Agarwal, the next challenge was scheduling: “We almost did not get [October 7]. So we would have had to wait all the way to winter break.”

Despite potential challenges, Aviation Club plans to host other events this year. Having arranged for Saint Francis alumna Captain Andrea Connell (’78), a United Airlines pilot, to speak to the club last year, Agarwal hopes to invite more guest speakers in the future. He also intends to host club screenings of Top Gun, Top Gun: Maverick, Sully, and The Terminal. Additionally, he is currently planning trips to the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos and the Moffett Federal Airfield Museum in Mountain View.

Regardless of what the next event will be, the club members are excited for a rewarding year ahead. “I think this was a good first test of a student-led field trip. A good first test of the popularity of the Aviation Club, as many humans came out for this. It blew me away,” said Cannon. “I look forward to seeing where the Aviation Club flies next.”

Categories: Column, Features

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