July 15--Though he didn't show it, when Clint Reynolds arrived at the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport on Sunday, he was nervous.
About a half hour later, when he took the controls of the 1968 Cessna 182 from pilot Jenny French at about 1500 feet above the Weyers Cave area, he looked like he'd been flying all his life.
"I got to fly from Harrisonburg to Staunton," Reynolds said. "I thought it was cool!"
Reynolds had never flown in any kind of aircraft ever.
Reynolds was offered a free flight in conjunction with the Shenandoah Valley Ultralight and Light Sport Flight Festival scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the SVRA.
"Everything looks small," Reynolds said. "I flew the plane over Robert E. Lee High School and Gypsy Hill Park. I saw Lake Tams, my house and [my] friend's house."
French said that is something that she always tries to do when she takes kids up on flights.
"They get excited when they get to see what they usually only view from the ground," she said. "If they can recognize their school or home, they think it looks different from the air."
French said that as part of the aerial tour, she usually tries to share some important information with the kids, depending on how busy the festival might be.
Sunday's info session shared that the Cessna held 38 gallons of gasoline in each wing. On an average flight, the plane can use about 12-15 gallons of fuel per hour and the speed can run about 145 miles an hour.
"The letter and the numbers on the side of the plane are the identification numbers or the call numbers. The N on the side stands for North American," said French's husband, Scott, a pilot for 30 years. "If you have a plane from Canada it would have a C on the side with the numbers or a plane from Brazil it would have a B on the side with the numbers.
"If there's a long line, we usually have to forego some of the information," said Scott.
Val Laren, president of the Experimental Aircraft Association, said that at last year's inaugural event at New Market, they had about 1,000 visitors, with approximately 110 kids taking the free flights.
"We're hoping to give more kids the chance to fly this year," he said. "Last year, we had some people in lines, that we couldn't give rides to."
Along with free rides for youth from 8 to 17 years of age, the festival will host a wide range of ultralight and light sport aircraft that fly within the Shenandoah Valley skies: powered paragliders, powered parachutes, hot air balloons, hang gliders, trikes, gyrocopters, gliders and various sizes of fixed-wing aircraft. A WWII P-19 training plane will be available for rides as well.
"Flying is safer and less expensive than most people think," Larsen said. "Powered paragliders fly as slowly as 20 miles per hour and can be purchased for as little as $2,500 and can be carried in the trunk of a car."
Larsen said that youth can pursue their flight dreams further with training.
"Several kids are taking lessons at [Eagle's Nest Airport] Waynesboro," he said.
John Trissel, co-owner and manager of Eagles Nest Flight Services, said that his business offers lessons to kids and adults. Children must be 16 to solo and can get their pilot's license at 17, although he provides lessons to students at any age.
"Height is the limiting factor," he said. Pilots need to see over the dashboard of the plane.
Flying lessons are competency based, Trissel said, and competency is tested via oral, written and practical exams. The solo license issued by the Federal Aviation Authority is a medical exam, a physical, he said.
The length of time a student can expect to train to fly depends upon each student.
"Over the last 10 years that I have owned Eagles Nest, the average is about 6 to 9 months," said Trissel, attributing the wide range in training time to people's schedules and how they learn as individuals. "Some people are good with book learning but can't get a plane to go where they want and vice versa."
As of March, there were 1,154 certified light-sport aircraft nationwide, up from 233 the previous year, according to the FAA.
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