A group of Kansans who restored a Boeing 707 flight simulator were invited by former first lady Nancy Reagan to attend the opening ceremony of the Air Force One Discovery Center, part of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif.

A group of Kansans who restored a Boeing 707 flight simulator were invited by former first lady Nancy Reagan to attend the opening ceremony of the Air Force One Discovery Center, part of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif.

Among those attending was Daron Clinesmith, CEO of the Air Force One Simulator Kansas Project, who is from El Dorado.

“I’m proud to have an educational tool for kids to see for some time,” Clinesmith said.

Clinesmith, along with Steve Cannaby, Jr., project founder; Steve Cannaby, Sr., project software developer; Justin Messenger, simulation specialists; and Robert Haseley the West Coast director, began work on the simulator after Cannaby, Jr., discovered the Boeing simulator in 1999 at a local surplus yard and formed a restoration team named the Air Force One Simulator Kansas Project (AFOS).

“It had so much history that it needed to be saved and when it got surplused out, it was meant basically to just go away and be carted off,” Cannaby said.

After about three years, the simulator was restored.

“I’m proud of being involved with all of it,” Clinesmith said, “being a part of an $8.7 million Discovery Center project funded by Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.”

He said it meant a lot to him to fly the simulator as well.

“It hadn’t been flown since Reagan was in office,” he said. “It was the very first digital simulator for Boeing.”

The simulator is the centerpiece of the new Discovery Center.

“For me it was eight years of trying to find the right home for it,” Cannaby said. “The feelings were mixed that it’s there, but now it’s kind of over. We finally did what we set out to do.”

After he found it, they knew what needed to be done.

“It had a serial number of 0001 on it and we felt compelled to try to preserve it,”

Cannaby said. “Once we got bit by that bug of finding out that we’re sort of like the protectors of this thing, finally getting it in the Reagan Library was sort of a relief because now its in the protection of the people with the national archives. It’s everything we wanted it to be when we set out.”

He said there are a lot of museums that don’t have the resources to take on something that big so they knew they were up against some pretty big obstacles.

But when they visited the Reagan Library last April, they took a tour of the private quarters of Ronald Reagan.

“I especially noticed in Ronald Reagan’s office he has first editions of everything,”

Cannaby said. “I see the the significance of why the Reagan Library decided to take it on.”

The one problem was that the simulator didn’t fit in the Presidential Museum, so it became the Educational Center.

“We know the simulator is the seed for the education center,” Cannaby said. “That is rewarding for us. It’s a seed that came from Kansas because it even has our sunflower on it.”

It also still has the seal that says “Air Force One Simulator Kansas Project” on it, which will remain in place.

“This will be a great addition to the Discovery Center,” said Duke Blackwood, executive director of the Reagan Library and Foundation. “Without the work of the volunteers and help of Boeing, we would not have been able to make the simulator a part of this incredible interactive hands-on learning experience.”

Clinesmith and Cannaby were proud to be a part of the Reagan Library, and enjoyed attending the opening ceremony.

“My life-long dream was to see Nancy again and I got that chance,” Clinesmith said.

“Being in the same room with her was phenomenal for me. It came full circle again – for the third time.”

Clinesmith had flown on Air Force One as part of the security detail for President Ronald Reagan.

It also meant a lot to Cannaby to attend.

“It was very rewarding,” he said. “It’s amazing any time you get to live through a dream come true.”

Clinesmith’s connections to the center doesn’t end with the simulator though.

He said he also is connected through one of the simulations they are using, a role-playing exercise based upon the 1983 United States rescue mission of American students in Grenada.

“I was part of the invasion too,” he said. “Even as flying on Air Force One as security for President Reagan, I was in combat as well.”

This exercise is designed to teach students how government works and how decisions are made. Students will take on the roles of important government figures like the Secretary of Defense, White House press correspondents, chair of the Join Chiefs of Staff and even the president of the United States, while participating in different modules including the White House Press Room, the White House Oval Office and the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan Command Decision Center. At the end of the role playing exercises, the students will be treated to a “ride” on the simulator.

“A simulated learning environment in a state-of-the-art facility is one of the best ways to engage student interest,” said Kevin Lynch, a Conejo Valley USD fifth grade teacher who is part of the library’s Teacher Advisory Board. “The Reagan Library’s Discovery Center is at the forefront of this type of learning, involving students in ways that schools simply cannot. They have found the way to make history come alive.”

Construction of the Discovery Center began Jan. 22, 2006, with the opening ceremony held June 8 of this year.