Flash Forward

Aviation Buffs

Pictured (left to right: Camille Copeland, Noral copeland and April McClellan-Copeland
Pictured (left to right): Camille Copeland, Noral Copeland and April McClellan-Copeland

When my daughter, Kent State aeronautics major Camille Copeland, was almost 4 years old, my husband, Air Force veteran Noral Copeland, took her to the 2002 Cleveland National Air Show. They marveled at the vintage airplanes and aerobatics—and, of course, they stayed for the final act, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds jet demonstration team.

Little did I know that the outing was the beginning of a Labor Day weekend tradition that this daddy/daughter duo from Oakwood Village, Ohio, would share for almost 20 years. And to my delight, they continue to find a meeting of their minds and hearts when it comes to airplanes, airports and all things aviation.

In recent years, my husband and daughter’s passion for aviation has intersected at Kent State’s College of Aeronautics and Engineering, where they are both aeronautics aviation management majors—she a senior and he a sophomore.

In 2018, Noral enrolled as a part-time student in the aeronautics program. Then last year, he retired from a career in meeting and event planning to devote more time to his studies in aviation management.

And I get to witness how proud he is to share the student experience with his daughter. “I love it,” he says. “It gives us something to discuss. I am very proud of my little girl.”

Hooked on Aviation

Noral was 5 years old when he realized how much he loved aviation. “When I was a little boy my mom, dad and I took an airline flight from Kansas City, Missouri, to Memphis, Tennessee,” he remembers. “I have been hooked ever since.”

After high school, his love of aviation drew him like a magnet to the U.S. Air Force, in 1977 after his first stint in college. He served as an air crew member for six years and in the Air National Guard for more than three years.

When he left the Air Force, he went in a different direction with his career. “But my love of aviation had never gone away,” he says. “When Camille showed an interest, that led me back.”

My husband’s enjoyment of aviation began to rub off on me as soon as I met him in 1987. But I never joined my husband and daughter at the air show because they left the house at 7 a.m.—much too early for me—and I didn’t want to devote an entire day to looking at airplanes and stunts. Plus, I thought it was a great time for daddy and daughter to connect without mommy in the mix.


During the years they attended the annual air show together, Camille would tell her dad she wanted to do stunts like the air show performers.

At home, Noral had a flight simulator connected to our computer in the family room, and in her free time Camille frequently sat down and tried her hand at flying. Her transformation to an aviation buff, just like her dad, was well underway.

It continued into high school when her dad  took her for a flying lesson at Burke Lakefront Airport. I was scared and had mixed feelings about her taking flight, but I didn’t interfere.

Then, during her senior year of high school, Camille did a project on aviation and interned with an aviation company based at Burke. Although she started at Kent State with the intention of being a pilot, she later changed her concentration to aviation management—just like her dad.

Now she is working with him on planning Inspire Aviation’s Props and Pistons Festival at the Akron-Fulton Airport, to be held Aug. 19-20, 2023. Noral is logistics coordinator for the airshow and Camille will work as the airside coordinator, a liaison to exhibitors and emergency crews.
“Working on the air show together feels great because it’s like a full-circle moment,” she says. He agrees. “And I’m looking forward to being a proud dad on my daughter’s graduation.”

You can bet I’ll be joining them for that event.

—April McClellan-Copeland


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POSTED: Tuesday, May 9, 2023 03:08 PM
UPDATED: Tuesday, April 16, 2024 01:37 AM