Kids: Are you ready to fly?
Young Eagles program takes flight July 23
'That was awesome! It was so fun,' 17-year-old Estacada High School student Shane Licari said with a huge grin as he stepped off the wing of a single-engine Piper Cherokee airplane last week at Valley View Airport.
Licari and local pilot Steve Miller had just spent an exhilarating half-hour in the clear skies above Estacada as part of an education program organized by the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.
Licari isn't the only young pilot who can experience the thrill of flying in the Association's Young Eagles program. A full day of free and educational flights for kids, ages 8-17, is being hosted by the Experimental Aircraft Association's Mt. Hood Chapter 902 on Saturday, July 23, at Valley View Airport in Estacada.
The Young Eagles program gives local youth an up-close and personal flying experience complete with a full tour of an airplane and all its parts during a pre-flight walk-around, a tour of the plane's instrument panel, and then taking off in the plane and going for a brief tour in the skies above Estacada. While looking at the skies above and the ground below, young pilots may even have the chance to fly the planes themselves. Licari was the 167th local youth to fly in the program.
'We usually take kids one at a time and they sit beside the pilot, and if they are comfortable, we will show them how to fly the plane,' said local EAA member Dick Scott, who is organizing the local Young Eagles day of flights. 'We'll do some gentle turns, fly around the local area, and if we can, fly over some of their houses.'
The Young Eagles program was started by the association with the intent of keeping kids interested in aviation and possibly sparking enough interest for those kids to go on and become pilots themselves. On the ground prior to a flight, a Young Eagles certified pilot will show the participants the airplane, identify the parts that control the plane, explain the aeronautical chart or map, identify reference points during the flight, and explain what will happen during the flight.
Just before takeoff, the pilot will help his or her student buckle the seatbelt and then describe the interior of the plane, including the instrument panel. In the air, flights will last between 15-20 minutes and are sure to be an unforgettable experience.
After landing, there's more time for new pilot to ask questions about the flight. Then he or she will receive an official Young Eagles logbook, which is signed by the pilot, and his or her name will be added to a long list of young Eagles in the World's Largest Logbook.
'This is a way to keep aviation, private flying alive,' Scott said. 'A few years ago, I flew this little boy. It was mostly his mother's idea. He was hesitant and maybe a little afraid. After I gave him a ride, he was still pretty quiet. The next day I flew his sister and after we landed, he wanted to go again. It's fun and free for the kids. This is something different to do on a Saturday morning.'
And who knows what the experience might spark in kid's future?
'We had one girl; her father is a pilot, and she got a ride with us,' Scott said. 'She ended up going through the Navy Academy and is now in flight training. There have been quite a few kids that have gone through the program and gone into the military.'
'This is a great opportunity,' Licari said before his flight last week. He said he was already interested in attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University after he graduates next year or possibly even joining the Coast Guard or the U.S. Air Force. 'I am not 100 percent sure what I am going to do, but I am really interested in flying and learning about the entire process.'
'This doesn't happen every day, especially for a teenage boy in a small town,' Licari's mother, Sabrina La Londe, said after his flight. 'This opportunity has opened new doors for Shane, and it has given us some additional resources to go to for college planning.'
With participants' first entry into a flight logbook, the Young Eagles program offers a coupon to get free ground school, which, Scott said, is a $200 value. The association also provides scholarships to its Air Academy in Oshkosh, Wis. Whether a first flight sparks an entire career in aeronautics or simply an appreciation for private flying, the Young Eagles program could be the catalyst needed.
'I believe Shane took away the idea that it's not so farfetched to believe that he can actually go to college, become a pilot, and learn to fly planes and when that opportunity knocks, you just have to go for it,' La Londe said. 'He got a whole new perspective on the world by spending 30 minutes flying over his hometown. We would like to thank Dick Scott, the EAA and Steve Miller for generously sharing their passion with us.'
For more information on the Young Eagles program, visit youngeagles.org.