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Free plane rides plant little seeds for aviation careers

Submitted photo by Omni Photography

A volunteer pilot is ready to take a young passenger on a free airplane ride Saturday morning, Oct. 5, at the Mt. Pleasant Airport. The annual Young Eagles Fly-In was sponsored by the Mt. Pleasant Kiwanis Club, working with the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 700 Burlington.
Submitted photo by Omni Photography A volunteer pilot is ready to take a young passenger on a free airplane ride Saturday morning, Oct. 5, at the Mt. Pleasant Airport. The annual Young Eagles Fly-In was sponsored by the Mt. Pleasant Kiwanis Club, working with the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 700 Burlington.
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As long as the weather held out Saturday morning at the Mt. Pleasant Airport, volunteers were ready to take youth ages 8-17 in a free airplane ride.

“We’ll have roughly 35, 40 riders by the time we are done ... but we’ll have to quit when the weather gets bad,” said Don Lindholm of the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 700 Burlington.

Youth who arrived with their parents from Mt. Pleasant, Mt. Union, New London, Argyle and Burlington, were able to take a free 10- to 15-minute flight above the Mt. Pleasant area.

“It was cool,” said 9-year-old Skyla Gray, 9, of Wisconsin. who was in Mt. Pleasant visiting family. Flying is nothing new for Skyla because she’s flown in both small and large aircraft before. But, would she like a career in the aviation field?

“No,” she answered quickly. “I wouldn’t be around my horses.”

Friends Alysa Azman and Zoey Carlsen, who are both 12 years old and from Mt. Pleasant, had their turn in the air.

“I thought it would be cool,” said Zoey. “It was really fun.”

Zoey said she had flown in a large aircraft before, but it was Alysa’s first time up.

“I’m scared of heights,” Alysa shared. But she braved her fear to spend time with Zoey, and although she did enjoy the experience, she said she would have to pass on a career in the aviation field.

Zoey said she would pass on a career in the aviation also.

“It’s just not my thing, but it is really fun,” she said, adding that she is considering becoming a teacher.

Both Zoey and Alysa said their pilot was “really awesome” and they would like to go on another flight.

“Kids in the front seat actually get to fly the plane,” said Lindholm. “They get to put their hands on the controls and fly. They come out of the airplane with smiles from ear to ear.”

After their flights, youth receive a Young Eagles Certificate, and their name in entered in the Experimental Aircraft Association logbook at the Experimental Aircraft Association Aviation Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Lindholm said this was probably the 10th year the Mt. Pleasant Kiwanis Club has sponsored the Young Eagles Fly-In at Mt. Pleasant, although it also had been sponsored by other groups in prior years.

“Steve Gray is just fantastic,” said Lindholm. “He and the Kiwanis take care of us, and when we’re done, they fill the airplanes with fuel.”

Lindholm said the number of volunteer pilots and planes varies from year to year, but five pilots from Burlington were at the event Saturday. Those volunteers were Jeff Diewold in an RV-7, Dave Camp with a 1955 Cessna 170, Steve Beaver with a Mooney M20C, Mike Monfils with a C-172, and Jim Pfadenhauer with a Cherokee 180.

“Everything Kiwanis does, we do for youth,” said Gray. “We knew back in the 1990s there was going to be a shortage of pilots, so we started sponsoring the Young Eagles Fly-In to introduce kids to flying. It can plant a little seed to get kids interested in aviation.”

The local fly-in is part of a larger national program. The Experimental Aircraft Association launched its free Young Eagles flights in 1992. TAs of Tuesday, Oct. 1, the program had given 2,178,895 youth ages 8-17 their first free ride in an airplane. According to the Experimental Aircraft Association website, the Young Eagles program is the only one of its kind, with the sole mission to introduce and inspire kids in the world of aviation.

Diewold, president of the Burlington chapter, said the group is important because it gets young people interested in aviation.