For the past 30 years, the Young Eagles program has been taking children ages 8 to 17, on their first flight to introduce them to the world of aviation.
On April 23, around 50 local children were able to experience their first foray into the wild blue yonder with pilots associated with Tri-County Airport and Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). Several of the pilots belonging to the squadron hail from Holmes and Washington County, while three others flew from Apalachicola to take part in the event. Local pilots include Ross Stathem, Frank Acuff, Jack Locke, Blake Williams and Alan Williams.
EAA Ground Leader Frank Acuff says the goal is to bring young people to the event and introduce them to aviation. “Our goal is to have the young kids come fly and introduce them to flying,” said Acuff. “And then maybe, just maybe, they will become a pilot in the future.”
8-year-old Jonah Wommack took his first flight on a 1959 Fuji LM1 aircraft, painted to look like a WWII-era Japanese Zero plane piloted by Richard Woodward of Apalachicola.
As Wommack was exiting the plane, Woodward asked what he thought of the flight, to which he exclaimed, “The was the most amazing thing I have ever done!” Wommack went on to say he wants to be a pilot when he grows up, just like his great-grandfather who flew during the Vietnam War.
Several types of planes were flying the children at the event, including a Cessna 172, a Bonanza Trainer and a Mooney 182.
Although the planes varied, the reaction from the children were similar, with nearly all wearing smiles when they disembarked.
Woodward says he enjoys introducing kids to flying. “When they called and asked for pilots to come help out at the event, I didn’t hesitate,” he said. “We always have a good time flying. It is important to teach the young ones about flying so there will be more pilots in the future.”
Another Young Eagles event is scheduled for June 11 at Tri-County Airport. For more information, or to register a child, visit youngeaglesday.org.