WADSWORTH — As airplanes cut through gray skies Saturday, Young Eagles soared.
The day’s EAA Young Eagles program provided children ages 8-17 with the opportunity to experience flying at Wadsworth Municipal Airport and to introduce them to the world of aviation.
For Wadsworth sisters Ava and Kamae Zarley, it was their first ride in an airplane, and both said the experience was “cool.”
In fact, Ava got to hold the plane’s controls.
When pilot Bryon Palitto, co-founder of AeroTrek Flight Academy, asked the sisters who wanted to sit up front with him, Ava’s hand shot up.
“Me,” she exclaimed.
Since the Young Eagles program was created in 1992 by the U.S. Experimental Aircraft Association, about 2.1 million kids have participated, said Gary Baker, president of the EAA chapter that put on the free event.
Baker estimated pilots would fly at least 100 children this year.
“And, it’s all donated planes, donated time, donated fuel. Some of these airplanes cost $100, $150 to run and operate (per hour), and the pilots are donating their time,” he said.
“Now that we have a routine going, it’s five or six people that work with the planning. We start in January confirming the date and the location.”
After that, they line up pilots and volunteers who can help at the event.
There has been a decrease in the number of licensed pilots in the aviation field, Baker said, and this event is one way to spark interest and generate enthusiasm about flying. The hope is that, after a plane ride, a child may be interested in being a pilot, a dispatcher, a mechanic, or one of the many other positions within aviation.
“You don’t have to be an airline pilot. You can be in the military, you can be corporate, you can do this on your own for fun as a hobby,” he said.
Contact reporter Alyssa Alfano at (330) 721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.