Local pilots offering free flights to youth

Published 2:54 pm Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Area youth will get a chance to take to the skies for free Nov. 14, as pilots at the Shelby County Airport will be volunteering their aircraft to share the flight experience.

Pilots will be taking children ages 8-17 into the air from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. as part of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program.

“It’s definitely a fun deal,” said Johnny Ward, the local EAA chairman. “We just do this to introduce young people to aviation.”

The program is beneficial to the children and the aviation industry as a whole, Ward explained.

“We have fewer pilots in our country right now than we ever have,” Ward said. “You never know, some of the kids who come to fly may go on to be military or commercial pilots, or even just fly for fun.”

All pilots in the program are local, and will be donating their time, aircraft and fuel throughout the day. During the event, airport employees and volunteers will be focused on safety, Ward said.

“These are all local pilots, and they are required to be certified and have their aircraft inspections up to date,” Ward said. “We are all about safety all the time.”

EAA typically hosts a few Young Eagles programs each year. During May’s event, the agency flew more than 40 children, Ward said.

Because the EAA is expecting many participants this month, Ward urged those interested to register as soon as possible, and to call and schedule a flight time.

“It’s not necessary to fill out the forms in advance and schedule a flight time, but it sure helps if you do,” Ward said. “We want to keep people from having to wait two or three hours to fly if 50 kids show up.”

Registration forms are available at the Shelby County Airport terminal from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. For more information, call Ward at 914-5984, or e-mail johnnyward1@yahoo.com.