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Aviation Exposure and Education Program (AEP)

AEP Summary

The Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority (LNAA) has established a program for Lehigh Valley area students to expose them to aviation and aerospace related careers and aeronautical facilities and equipment; including aircraft, spacecraft, ground vehicles, cooperative education projects and on-the-job training experiences, with the purpose of encouraging students to pursue careers in the aviation and aerospace industry.

Together airports, airlines and aircraft interacting in the aviation industry coupled with spacecraft, satellites and other emerging technologies and enterprises in the aerospace industry form the key elements of a dynamic, hands-on exposure and educational experience for a comprehensive industry engagement program delivered by and through LNAA.

Space Shuttle Blake

Central to the Project is the acquisition of an artifact, the Space Shuttle “Blake”. Space Shuttle Blake is probably the world’s most amazing, most unique educational tool.

Six years and over 40,000 volunteer hours in the making, the Blake is a 4/10-scale replica of the Space Shuttle on the exterior and a state-of-the-art classroom inside.

This “classroom-on-wheels” has:

  • Ground-to-space communication capabilities for contact with the International Space Station
  • A space shuttle flight simulator, eight networked multimedia computers with educational programming
  • Cellular data capabilities (for Internet access)
  • Other hands-on learning centers

The goal is to restore the functionality to Shuttle Blake at its new home, Lehigh Valley International Airport.  Shuttle Blake will be made available to the general public, school groups and participants in the Project.

History of Blake

Shortly after the loss of NASA’s Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, the idea for Blake was conceived by Robert Boehmer, a Parkland elementary school art teacher, and his then principle Steve Szilagyi. Mr. Boehmer had participated in NASA’s Teacher in Space Program, the same program that ultimately led to teacher Christa McAuliffe’s inclusion as a crewmember on Challenger’s final flight. Nine years in the making, it was commissioned in Washington, D.C. on June 25th, 1995. Since then, Blake has been used as a platform for enhancing traditional classroom education. Lessons are cross-curricular with an emphasis on cooperative learning and teamwork. Since entering service nearly 18 years ago, Blake has hosted an estimated 64,000 students.

Dubbed “The Pride of the Lehigh Valley” by the volunteer employees of Mack Trucks, at its Research and Development Test Center adjacent to the Queen City Airport, Blake truly lives up to its nickname. The classroom demonstrates what is possible when an educational concept receives support from the community it serves. The idea for Blake would have never left the ground without the resources and talented workers from local businesses and corporations who have donated money, materials, and thousands of volunteer man-hours to the project. The Blake program has also received financial support from public and private donations. Until Parkland School District retired the Space Shuttle Blake Project in 2012, support for the program was on-going, allowing Blake to continue its missions and to make appearances at schools across the Lehigh Valley, at universities, educator conferences, corporate-sponsored exhibits, and other special events. Though the faces and logos of some Blake’s partners have changed through the years, Lehigh Valley’s own Space Shuttle Blake continued to receive sponsorship and help from the community it proudly served. Blake’s role in education has transcended its ability to instruct and inspire children. It stands as an example of what is possible when an educational program receives wide-spread community support.

Current Partnerships:

  • Louis E. Dieruff High School, Allentown School District (Project Take-Off)
  • Muhlenberg College, Accounting, Business & Economics Department (Airport Management Summer Internship)
  • Lehigh University, College of Business and Marketing (Strategic Business & Marketing Plan Development for Queen City)

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Welcome Space Shuttle Blake to LVIA

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