LAMPASAS — Despite the high winds and cool temperatures, nearly 50 youngsters took to the skies Saturday and got the rides of their lives.
The Experimental Aircraft Association, Lampasas Pilots Association and the city of Lampasas joined forces to offer free airplane rides to children ages 8 to 17 as part of the Young Eagles Flight Rally at Lampasas Airport. Children were able to touch, sit in and take flight in small-engine planes provided by EAA Chapter 542 of Killeen with a membership of 25 private pilots.
The flight plan included a large circle around Lampasas to provide a view from above. The event also offered educational opportunities about aviation, including how planes fly, where they fly, and why the ability to fly is important to our economy and to people. Chapter members also spoke to the young fliers about their hopes and goals.
“This event is about building dreams,” said Dave Wesley, a Chapter 542 club official. “That’s why we stress to the kids the importance of staying in school and excelling in the areas of math and science. Hopefully, we can start a spark where they pursue a career in aviation whether that be a pilot, air traffic controller, mechanic or another job.”
“Even before today, I thought I could one day see myself doing (an airline job). Today confirmed it. I definitely like flying in a small aircraft,” said 16-year-old Nathanael Thelen who rode in a four-seater Cirrus. “As we were climbing, there was a little bit of turbulence, but then it smoothed out.”
Fyness Gorecki was so excited when she got off a Beechcraft Musketeer that she could hardly talk. “All the ponds were perfect circles and the trees looked like tiny ants. It was cool,” Gorecki said.
“It was amazing. The view was nice. I got to see my house,” Cameron Wilson said. “It was scary when we turned to the right. I was on my side leaning against the door. I was holding on as hard as I could. I thought I would fall out.”
Pilots pay for all of the expenses of using the planes, including volunteering their time to fly, loaning the use of their planes and purchasing the fuel. Lampasas provided the airport facility and staff, including the ground crew, parking and driving the utility carts to transport the young fliers across the runway.
“It’s a very positive experience for both us and the kids. Once they get in the planes, they come back with big grins like it’s the best thing that ever happened to them,” said Mickey Towers, airport manager.
All participants receive a certificate and have their names entered into a log book on the EAA website. Children can see their names in the “world’s largest log book” within 60 days of the rally.
The Young Eagles Flight Program started in 1993 with a goal of flying 1 million children by 2003. The goal was exceeded and another goal was set to fly an additional million children through 2013. So far, the program has flown 1.9 million children.