By NICOLE WESKERNA
Kaylee Skeens (left), 4, of Cortland, and Ava Wilkins, 3, of Sycamore, play together inside a hangar at the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport while their siblings participate in a Young Eagles flight on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012, in DeKalb, Ill. ( (Rob Winner — firstname.lastname@example.org))
DeKALB – It only took 20 minutes for Collin Lexa, 8, of Cortland to decide which career to pursue when he grows up.
“OK, now I want to be a pilot,” he said Saturday after soaring 1,000 feet above the DeKalb and Sycamore areas on his first plane ride.
More than 60 people signed up to take flights at the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport during the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program, which is held each summer in June and August.
Rose May, Young Eagle coordinator, said eight pilots donated their time and their planes Saturday to give children ages 8 through 17 free plane rides, which lasted about 20 minutes each.
“[The pilots] feel very excited about sharing the experience of flying,” she said.
Collin and his sister, Bethany Lexa, 10, had never been on a plane before Saturday, unlike their older sister, Katrina Lexa, 16, who has previous flying experience. Their dad, Dennis Lexa, said he’s always been interested in flying and wanted to share that with his children.
“My dad was a B-24 and B-25 pilot during World War II,” he said. “He got me into it by going to [EAA AirVenture Oshkosh] every year.”
May said the goal of the Young Eagles program isn’t necessarily to convince everyone to become pilots, but to give young people a chance to see all types of flight-related careers, such as mechanics.
“It’s … to give kids the opportunity to fly and give them experience firsthand,” she said.
Volunteers showed plane engines to families as they wanted to take turns riding in the civil utility airplanes. Families also had a chance to learn how to do flight planning using charts and tools, and learn about gathering weather information and about airspace restrictions.
Halle Boddy, 15, and her friend, Rachel Wesbrock, 15, both of Sycamore, took flights Saturday with Rachel’s mom, Christine Wesbrock. Though she had flown in commercial airplanes, Halle said Saturday was the fist time she had ever been in a civil utility aircraft. It was Rachel’s second Young Eagles flight. They said they’d definitely recommend the flight program to others.
“Will they be back? I’m sure,” Christine Wesbrock said.
May said each of the airplanes have dual controls, and some pilots on Saturday allowed children to help steer the plane.
While the Young Eagles program is geared toward youth, May said there are also opportunities for adults who are interested in learning about flying.
The local EAA Chapter 241 meets every second Monday of each month at the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport at 6:30 p.m. May said the meetings are open to the public, and recent discussions have revolved around using an iPad in the cockpit.
“If you look up in the sky and see a plane and have ever thought you’d like to be in it, then [EAA] might be for you,” she said.