Renbrook School Celebrates Flight Day

Grade 2 students standing in front of large Pratt & Whitney engine
In 1925, the Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company was founded by Frederick B. Rentschler, who pioneered the air-cooled radial engine design which enabled unprecedented power-to-weight ratio. According to Pratt & Whitney, “Its first engine, the R-1340 Wasp engine, transformed military and commercial aviation and is still in use today. In 1928, the Canadian division of the Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company was established.” Pratt & Whitney quickly became so dominant that they supplied fifty percent of all Allied airplane horsepower in WWII.
The Rentschler family lived on a grand estate atop Avon Mountain on Albany Avenue. Mrs. Faye Belden Rentschler owned the property and willed it to a non-profit that benefitted children. The Junior School, located elsewhere in West Hartford, was awarded use of the property in 1957, and renamed itself Renbrook School in recognition of the generous gift from the Rentschlers. “Ren” comes from Rentschler, and one must cross a rushing brook to enter the 75-acre property, thus becoming Renbrook School. What was once the address of a leading innovator, has been the home for “bringing learning to life” for children for more than 65 years.
Howard Wright shares, “Flight is a wonderful topic for a school because people of all ages are innately wired to deeply appreciate the wonders of flight and to marvel at things that fly through the air. Flight Day gave students in preschool through Grade 8 the opportunity to explore and experience flight in a variety of ways.”
The youngest students gathered with their older “buddies” and worked together to create and successfully fly hoop gliders. They listened to stories of flight in the library, learned about the basics of a wind tunnel, and took a hike through the “Rentschler Woods” to walk in the Rentschler Family footsteps. Students in the Lower School and Upper School divisions participated in flying drones and launching solid-fueled rockets and “stomp” rockets. They engineered balsa gliders, flew kites, and had fun with bubbles. Seventh-grade students led tours through the historic Rentschler House and the Globe Foyer which displays Pratt and Whitney aviation history, a Wasp engine, airplane seating, and flight-related memorabilia including two copies of Amelia Earhart’s record-setting certificates.
Several Renbrook parents who work at Pratt & Whitney (P&W) and Raytheon helped coordinate visits from Pratt & Whitney during Flight Day. Tim Cormier, Seth Huttner, Fred Jacquet, and Jeremy Robbins arranged for Pratt & Whitney to bring two highly successful engines to campus on a 53’ flatbed truck, one that is flown on commercial airplanes and the other on military aircraft. On hand to explain to the students how the engines work was John Zepp, the manager of strategic events at P&W.
Roy Schoberle, Flight Test Discipline Chief at Pratt & Whitney, kept the students spellbound as he regaled them with stories of his career as a test pilot, showed videos of military aircraft taking off and landing on aircraft carriers, and shared models of aircraft and aircraft carriers he built. Nicolas Chabée, Vice President of Helicopter Sales and Marketing of Pratt and Whitney Canada, flew down from Montreal and buzzed the campus several times in a Mooney 1020, much to the excitement of ecstatically waving children. Mr. Chabée landed at a nearby airport, came to Renbrook to tour the Rentschler House, and lunched with students.
The theme of flight is found in the Renbrook School’s mission statement and is even the slogan of its current capital campaign – “Take Flight.” The school certainly soared on Flight Day!
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