Media contacts: Eden Hopkins/Craig O'Neill



SEATTLE—Northwest families with children of all ages have a new place to explore all types of aviation with the hands-on Flight Zone exhibit at the Museum of Flight. "We're excited to open the Flight Zone exhibit as it provides a unique way for children preschool age and older to have a fun, hands-on experience," says Museum of Flight President and CEO Ralph Bufano.

Families enter the Flight Zone exhibit through a large mural depicting aerial imagery from the local area. Walking under a globe being circumnavigated by a tiny airplane and space shuttle, future engineers, mechanics, and pilots might imagine they are a famous aviator or space explorer with a series of pint-sized cutouts. The young intrepid flyers strap into flight harnesses to test their piloting skills in one of two hang gliding simulators. Children of all abilities can enter a balloon gondola basket, or send a balloon to the ceiling. An aircraft instrumentation area helps kids learn what it takes to control a flying machine. Children sit in the cockpits and operate the controls of a real Rotorway "Scorpion" helicopter, Thorp T-18 homebuilt aircraft, and a miniature P-47D replica. Children conduct high-speed aerodynamic experiments examining the performance of a variety of shapes in a wind machine. With working models of engines, children learn what keeps a plane roaring and see how aircraft are built with a close-up view of flying grade materials, components, and fasteners. Younger children of preschool age can taxi by a mini-air traffic control tower with plush airplane toys on a soft runway floor mural.

The Flight Zone exhibit was funded by the proceeds from the 1999 "Out of This World For Kids" auction. Guests contributed to the evening's "Fund-an-Item," a special category of donations earmarked for the redesign of the Museum of Flight's former Hangar exhibit, a gallery filled with real aircraft that one million kids have climbed into and "flown" in during the past ten years. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation generously matched the $141,000 raised for the new, hands-on children's Flight Zone exhibit. Flight Zone was designed and fabricated by the Museum of Flight and Pacific Studio of Seattle.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which gave so generously to the renovation of the Museum's Flight Zone exhibit, supports programs of global health, education and life-long learning, and family planning and reproduction health efforts in the developing world. The foundation also funds a variety of organizations in the Pacific Northwest, especially those working in the areas of learning and human services.

The Museum of Flight, at 9404 East Marginal Way South in Seattle, is open seven days a week from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is $9.50 adults, $8.50 seniors ages 65 and older, $5 youths ages 5 to 17, and free for children ages 4 and under and Museum members. Thanks to Wells Fargo, visitors are admitted free on the first Thursday of every month, from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Please call the Museum of Flight at 206-764-5720 for general information.