Young Eagles allow local children to soar

Oct. 8, 2009


Oct. 6--REDLANDS -- Charles Whiteside's interest in planes took off when he did a science fair project in school.

The 15-year-old had flown on a commercial plane once, but Saturday afternoon was his first trip around Redlands in a single-engine plane.

"Before we just flew out to Florida," he said before the flight. "Now I get to see around my hometown."

Whiteside was one of many children who came to Redlands Municipal Airport Saturday to get a free flight through the Young Eagles program by the Experimental Aircraft Association in Redlands.

"The flights are always free," said Beverly Buck, Young Eagles coordinator for Redlands EAA. "They (pilots) do take donations for fuel, though."

Children ages eight to 17 waited in line for their turn to fly in a single-engine airplane piloted by licensed volunteers. Usually about 35 children come, but Saturday there were 98, Buck said.

"The maximum we can take now is three (children) at a time," she said.

Before boarding, children listened to preflight instructions and their parents filled out a registration form.

Robert Boehm, EAA member and ground school instructor, told his audience about gravity and cockpit controls.

After the lesson, children waited in line before receiving more instructions and boarding the plane.

Gary Timbs, a volunteer pilot, showed Dalton Johnson, 13, his airplane controls and parts before they boarded the 1946 Cessna 140.

Dalton has model airplanes at home and shared his interest with his brother, Brandon, 20, before he was shipped off to Iraq for military duty. Saturday was Dalton's first time flying in a two-seater, mother Lori Johnson said.

"Our older boys did this We used to take them," Lori said. "The one that's in the Army got us all into it."

Children had a 20-minute flight around Redlands and the planes went up to 5,000 feet, said ground handler Mike Sawicki.

"Most of the time we like to keep it lower to the 3,000 feet so they can see everything," he said.

Experimental Aircraft Association is a international organization of aviation enthusiasts and members who aim to get children interested in flying. The co-chairs of Young Eagles are the two pilots who made the emergency landing on the Hudson River in January.

Harrison Ford was the previous chairman and passed the torch to Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles last week.

The Redlands Experimental Aircraft Association holds free flights for children three to four times a year and the next one will be in February or March, Buck said.

For more information, call Buck at (909) 907-1364.

E-mail Staff Writer Christee Lemons at [email protected]