New Simulated Aircraft at MSP Offers Passengers a Practice Flight Without Leaving the Ground


Now boarding at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Main Terminal: A commercial “aircraft cabin” where passengers can practice putting their luggage in the overhead bins, inserting the buckle and tightening the strap.

The dummy aircraft, now permanently parked near Gate C16 of Terminal 1, will host airport and public safety training exercises, and support MSP programs that help passengers, including those with disabilities, to feel more comfortable in flight.

“Individuals can learn about flying without the stress of the moment,” said Thomas Panek, CEO of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a New York-based nonprofit that trains guide dogs. “We travel for fun and excitement, and to connect with loved ones, but you may feel anxious when you hear the last call for boarding.”

Panek, who is blind, told an opening ceremony on Monday that he had many questions when he first flew with his guide dog more than 20 years ago. “I didn’t enjoy this experience,” he added, like his guide dog, a handsome yellow Labrador named Blaze, curled up near his “airplane” seat.

The 33-foot mock aircraft cabin was previously used to train Delta Air Lines flight crews in Atlanta. The airline donated the components, along with 42 seats from a retired Boeing 737, which were reassembled and named the Travel Confidently MSP Education Center.

Beyond Delta’s donation, the cost of the project was approximately $150,000 – a tab split between the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) and the Airport Foundation MSP.

The Education Center will help the Navigating MSP program offer potential passengers with sensory, physical or cognitive disabilities, or those who fear flying, a place to practice boarding in a realistic setting. It will also allow assistance dogs to become familiar with an airplane cabin.

Mary Loeffelholz, Delta’s vice president of operations at MSP, said the center is a “one-of-a-kind facility” providing users with an “innovative pre-flight experience.”

Delta’s donation allows the airport to “provide a realistic training environment without the use of an actual aircraft, which will build confidence in air travel for more people in our community,” said Brian Ryks. , executive director and CEO of the MAC, in a statement.

It comes as the airport prepares for Memorial Day – the traditional kickoff to what is expected to be the busiest summer travel season since the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.

After a groundbreaking Monday, officials and media crammed into the capsule-like structure, which features original artwork by young local artists from Minneapolis-based Juxtaposition Arts.

“They should have done this 10 years ago,” said Darrell Paulsen, who has cerebral palsy and sits on MSP’s Travelers with Disabilities Advisory Committee.

“Sometimes it can be stressful to fly with a wheelchair,” he said.


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