By Carrie Wells
Two years ago, 12-year-old Quincy Peterson had the opportunity to take a helicopter ride, but gave up his seat so his brother could have the experience instead.
Flying has been on his mind ever since.
Quincy finally got his chance to be airborne on Saturday in a tiny Cessna Skycatcher, taking the controls for a moment from local pilot Greg Lewis as the two flew 1,000 feet up over Longboat Key, Coquina Beach and downtown Sarasota.
Stepping off of the plane with shaky legs, the Booker Middle School 7th-grader was awestruck and grinning.
“When you took off, it was like, your stomach goes up,” Quincy said, using his hands to imitate holding the plane’s steering wheel. “I felt weightless.”
Lewis, a United Airlines pilot by trade, gave Quincy a hug and a picture of them by the plane.
“I like that picture of us, man,” Lewis said as Quincy beamed. Quincy said he now wants to be a pilot when he grows up, too.
The boy’s free flight came from the Young Eagles group, made up of current and retired pilots who donate their time, fuel and planes on the third Saturday of every month. Operating out of the Dolphin Aviation center adjacent to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, the Young Eagles have made a recent push to get more children involved in the program and more pilots interested in volunteering.
“It’s expensive to get into, so the future is in young people,” said Ric Romanoff, a Young Eagles organizer, citing costs of $150 an hour for a private lesson.
It may sound a bit corny, he said, but the pilots volunteer “for the love of aviation.”