Sixty-one young people learned to fly alongside experienced pilots Saturday in the most well attended Young Eagles event thus far at the Mexico Memorial Airport. The Experimental Aircraft Association hopes some of those youth will become the pilots or mechanics of the future, and some of them just may.
The event was operated by the EAA Chapter 1387 out of Troy to offer youth ages 8-17 a free opportunity to learn how airplanes work and what its like to fly. Many even got a chance to take the yoke and steer through the clouds.
“We’ve got a gorgeous day and a very motivated crowd,” said Lynn Weber, Chapter 1387 president, as the morning sun rose over the runway, nearby grass still damp from recent rains. “We’ve been running Young Eagle rallies for a while, but we really wanted to come out to Mexico to reach out to the rural communities. … As I talk to the children, it’s just wonderful to see what they are interested in. Some are interested in mechanics and how you build it, some are interested in flying, and some have already decided they want to go to the Naval or Air Force academy, and to see the young women is thrilling.”
One of those young women was eleven-year-old Bella Hawkins, of Perry, who was there with her father and grandfather, Matt and John Hawkins. John has been flying for about 50 years and had his son up in a helicopter when he was only a couple months old. He hopes that this event will help spur a family tradition onto the third generation.
Bella said she wasn’t scared, even though she’d never flown before. “It was really fun,” she said. “Everything looked so small.”
Gale Derosier has made a career in planes, working in aircraft maintenance since 1969 with TWA, then American Airlines, but there aren’t enough new people entering the field, he said.
“We are trying to get some leadership going for airline pilots and those sorts of things,” he said. “That’s the whole goal of the EAA is to produce pilots for the future, because they are running out of pilots. We also do it for the big satisfaction of watching the smiles on the kids’ faces.”
Among those smiling young people who were interested in aviation were teenage brothers Matthew and Noah Chesser.
Matthew said he loved the views and sense of freedom flying offers.
“It was a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to get my own pilot’s license,” Noah said.
The brothers were joined by their mother, Monica Chesser, and other siblings. Their sister, Lilly Chesser, 12, was also there, excitedly telling other girls about how fun it was to look down and see cows the size of ants.
“It was amazing. We went up over the clouds, and went farther north than him,” she said, triumphantly pointing to one of her older brothers.
Monica said all of her five children enjoyed the event and were interested in attending other Young Eagle events and maybe some aviation camps. “We need a family discount,” she joked. “They are all excited.”
The Mexico EAA Chapter 1225 will hold a similar event for adults who are interested in learning about aircraft and flying May 18 at the Mexico airport.