Aviation program helps young pilots fly high

The Young Eagles Chapter 227 program in Waterloo held a rally on Saturday, Sept. 16 to promote flying to young kids and show that it is a fun experience for all. The program took flight in 1992 and is geared toward showing 8 to 17 year olds the ins and outs of flying.

The turnout at this year’s gathering was a large group of people, topping out around under 80 new kids and families. It might not seem like a lot of people, but when they’re huddled around an aircraft hanger at 8 a.m. eagerly waiting to go up in a plane, it certainly felt packed. Starting in groups of three, excited kids piled into the general aviation planes with the pilot, and all participants got their own headsets and honorary pictures with the pilot and the plane as mementos.

As I put on my headset and headed down the runway, I found it to be one of the coolest experiences. I’ve always wanted to be involved in aviation and fly like this, so this was an awesome thing for me.

I’ve been on commercial flights before, but this didn’t feel the same. For me, there’s a sort of safety and comfort being in a giant plane with lots of people.

Not to say that these smaller planes aren’t safe, but it was a surprise to feel the wheels finally come up off the tarmac and actually go up hundreds of feet in the air in this tiny plane. Being in the air in such a small plane was like actually flying, the only thing keeping me from being totally mesmerized by it was the chatter from the control tower and the slow interference in the headset whining in and out.

The route the volunteer pilots took us on was a big triangle starting from the airport, to over downtown Waterloo and by the riverfront. Then we headed over Lost Island and the Isle Casino and local farmland. And the final pass was by downtown Cedar Falls including, Cedar Falls High School. The whole morning adventure took under 20 minutes to fly all over Waterloo and Cedar Falls and went very smoothly.

The morning sun coming up over the horizon and through the clouds was incredible with an orange sun contrasting the gold of the fields down by the horizon of the cities and the blue of the sky.

The Young Eagles have been registered in more than 100 different countries and have been flown by more than 42,000 different pilots over the years and all over the world.

More than 1.9 million young pilots have enjoyed flights from the Young Eagles, and pilots from the 227 group in Waterloo have flown around 2,000 young kids in hopes that one day those same kids can do the same for other children and keep the group from stalling out as older pilots stop flying.

John Dutcher, the Young Eagle Coordinator from Chapter 227, put together the gathering on Saturday at the Waterloo Regional Airport and made sure everything went smoothly for all the participants that considering making flying a career or hobby.

Not only did kids get to go up in a plane for free on Saturday, they also got a free logbook for their flights, and they had their names added to the World’s Largest Logbook along with all the other Young Eagles across the world, but Saturday’s event was not the end of the offerings from the Eagles. Those who sign up and stick with the program, will get to go through a short ground school to further heighten their skills with flying and learn how things work on the ground as well.

Anyone who wants to get involved in aviation can contact the Young Eagles on the Experimental Aircraft Association website. They’re more than happy to help out anyone with an interest in getting up in the air and learning to fly.

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