Chapter 1387 of Experimental Aircraft Association, based in Troy, will hold a free Young Eagle Flight 9 a.m. to noon May 4 at Mexico Memorial Airport. What will participants, ages 8 to 17, actually learn, though? Pat Donovan, the chapters Young Eagle coordinator, explained it all to The Ledger last week.
"The goal is to not just to give kids a ride (in a plane),” he said. “The goal is to let them see opportunities they might not have considered before.”
Participants should RSVP with the chapter and parents will need to sign a permission form on the day of the event.
Flying an airplane is what it means to truly be free, he said, because in the air, there are no stop signs and no right-hand turns. Young Eagle flights have taken upward of 2.1 million children on flights. The looks on a child's face is the reason Donovan participates in Young Eagle flights, he said.
"When the kids are done (they will) get a certificate, a log book showing who flew them," Donovan said.
On the back of the book will be a code for the participant to take a free online ground school, which is part of the requirements to receive a pilot's license. At a certain point in taking the ground school, a participant can seek out a $150 scholarship to take in-flight lessons.
"You have to be 16 years old to actually start as a pilot, 14 if you're going for gliders (and) 17 years old for a private pilot license. Private pilot license gives you access anywhere in the country, unrestricted," he said.
Donovan flies a 1964 Piper Comanche. The plane is an all-metal construction and seats up to four. Any youth who fly with him in the front passenger seat May 4 will get an opportunity to fly the plane once it is at altitude under Donovan's guidance.
"We're staying relatively local. (It) gives them a chance to sight see. If they are from the local area, maybe we can fly over their house, where they go to school or something like that," he said.
Depending on the age of the children who are grouped with him, he will first teach them the composition of plane, including that it has more than two wings. His plane has two main wings, a tail wing stabilizer, a vertical stabilizer rudder wing and even the propellor is considered a type of wing. He will also do a basic explanation of how the wings cause lift, or how a plane takes off from the ground. For participants of high school age, he will explain more the physics side of plane engineering.
Donovan's said he's not afraid of heights when he's in the air.
"I'm afraid of edges. I'm not afraid of heights flying in this, but you put me on that roof over there anywhere near the edge, that's a little uncomfortable," he said. "Surprisingly enough, the percentage of pilots that are afraid of heights, or edges, is higher in the pilot population than in the general population."
A fair number of children remain interested in aviation after the Young Eagle flight, Donovan said. There is a scholarship program for a weeklong air academy in Wisconsin. "They get a chance to build, to hear history, do a ropes course, flight simulators, all that kind of stuff," he said.
Donovan's graduate degree is in aeronautical engineering, and while he was unable to be a commercial airline pilot, he said he enjoys flying and giving children the opportunity to learn about aircraft. EAA was founded around the principal of homebuilding an aircraft, he said, and the Young Eagles program was first developed in 1992.