Young ‘pilots’ try on wings

Published 11:19 pm Sunday, September 9, 2007

By Staff
Young Eagles program exposes area children to flying and airplanes
By MIKE VOSS, Contributing Editor
Bradley Williams, a boy from Greenville, wanted to take another airplane ride just seconds after completing his first-ever airplane ride on Saturday.
Manning and his passenger were among the participants in Saturday’s aviation education day at Washington’s Warren Field Airport. The annual event, organized by Chapter 960 of the Experimental Aircraft Association, is part of EAA’s Young Eagles program. The program introduces young people to aviation.
In addition to the free airplane rides, children attend a “ground school” before they are allowed to fly. During the brief school, instructors explain how airplanes fly, airplane equipment and aviation safety rules.
Bradley said he wasn’t scared while he was in the air. Neither was his mother, Rhonda Williams, who learned about Saturday’s event when she picked up a flier about it in Winterville. She talked to her son about the free flights being offered.
Whose idea was it for Bradley to take his first flight?
Bradley had his own thoughts about taking his first flight.
Was the mother worried about her son taking that initial flight?
Because Manning is over 40, Williams said she had no qualms placing the well-being of her son in the pilot’s care.
Hannah Gahagan, daughter of Washington Councilman Mickey Gahagan, also took a flight. Like Bradley, Hannah wanted to return to the skies.
Gahagan, the councilman, said events like the one held at the airport Saturday, provide opportunities for people to “see what the airport is like.” Gahagan said the city wants the airport to play a role in the city’s plans for growth and economic development. A busy airport that provides several aviation-related services will help the city realize its plans, he said.
Gahagan wasn’t the only city official at the airport Saturday. Mayor Judy Meier Jennette was there, signing flight certificates for children who took airplane rides.
Tim Woolard, a Washington native and resident who is an EAA member, reported that 69 children had signed up for the free flights by 1:45 p.m. The event began at 10 a.m. Each flight lasted about 20 minutes.
The annual event is for children ages 5 to 17, Woolard said. When it began, the program’s goal was to fly one million children by Dec. 17, 2003, the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, Woolard said.
Since it began, the program has flown more than 1.2 million children, said Woolard, who added he flew flight number 800,000. Participating pilots do more than just fly children.
According to Woolard, 12-year-old girls make the best “pilots” when they take the controls.
Because they fly so many children during an event, it’s not easy for pilots to keep track of their passengers from year to year, Woolard said. Some children make repeat flights over the years, he added.