Families from all over the region turned up at the Lake County Airport on Saturday, Nov. 9, for an opportunity to fly under a free-flight program offered under the Experimental Aircraft Association.
Known as the Young Eagles, the Lakeview was part of a national program aimed at inspiring aspiring young pilots. Youth ages 8-17 were granted an opportunity to get behind the controls of an aircraft during 20-minute flights around the Lakeview area, while those on the ground received a free pancake breakfast. The event was coordinated by the Oregon Outback Aviators – a group of regional pilots with a mutual passion for the skies. Two aircraft were provided for the event by Oregon Outback Aviators members, both aircraft Cessna 182s, while event organizers were blessed with perfect flying weather to maximize flight time for kids.
A line quickly formed for registration with many families present for the opportunity to fly for free. A father and son, Scott and Tyler McAulay, came all the way from Wagontire for the chance to fly. Scott wanted his son to gain firsthand experience with what it was like to fly in a small plane. Scott mentioned he had flown a plane similar to the Cessna’s present in the past. Tyler was happy to try flying and hopes to fly on his own someday.
Other families traveled from as far away as Klamath Falls and Chiloquin for the event. There were also several families from the Lakeview area. Most of the participants had never been in an airplane before.
According to Bruce Webbon, Oregon Outback Aviators co-founder and one of two pilots providing rides, each aircraft in total flew around 40 kids, with flights averaging 20-25 minutes. Sick bags were provided just in case, but the smooth weather meant none had to use them.
“The reaction from everyone was very positive, both real-time and afterward,” said Webbon. Everyone who flew seemed to really enjoy the experience. The turnout was much higher than we expected.”
Many parents were happy their children were showing an interest in flying, as it could be another activity to offer to young kids in the area. According to Webbon, several teachers even approached Lake County Airport Manager Tom Andrews about possibly launching a kids aviation club, with monthly meetings to be held at the airport.
Each child upon completion of their flight was given a free logbook, with their time flying logged by the pilot to note their first airborne adventure. Additionally kids were registered with EAA in the Young Eagles program, granting access to extensive free online training materials to further their pursuit of a pilot’s license.
The Young Eagles showcase was the latest public event aimed at increasing interest in general aviation in Lake County. The Oregon Outback Aviators club, formed less than two years ago, has pushed forward opportunities for prospective pilots with an open house event held earlier this year. The group has also coordinated with a Klamath-based flight instructor to come to Lakeview on the weekends to offer flying lessons, and an aircraft acquired by Andrews is available at a reduced rental rate for club members. Membership is $100, but at the 15% reduced rate the memberships is paid in full with seven hours of rental flight time.
Webbon recently acquired his ground school instructor rating, and will soon offer ground school 10-12 week courses to further aid student pilots in Lake County. He plans to get his certified flight instructor rating in the spring. He indicated that the club may hold another EAA Young Eagles event next spring.
For more information contact Tom Andrews at 541-947-4222.