By Michael Hartwell
FITCHBURG — Pesky clouds that hurt visibility cleared up quickly Saturday morning at the Fitchburg Municipal Airport in time for the Young Eagles Program to give local youth a chance to soar.
The Fitchburg Pilots Association puts on two Young Eagles events each year that gives kids between age 8 and 17 a chance to fly in a small aircraft.
“The kids are basically going for a ride,” said Charley Valera, president and owner of the flight center. He said each flight took about 15 minutes and the path looped around Wachusett Mountain and came back.
The small airplanes was grounded at first by low visibility and helicopter pilot Steve Brousseau of Leominster was able to take about a dozen kids in the air, as his machine had all the visibility it needed. The clouds cleared up at about 11 a.m. and about 60 kids were airborne.
Valera said the event is free and intended to bring more people into the flight community by showing young people how exciting it can be to fly. Pilots donate their time, fuel and use of their aircraft for the event.
“I got a bird’s eye view,” said Joseph Jin, 8, of Billerica. “Everything is so small and looks like ants.” His father owns a dry cleaning store in Fitchburg and he said he had a great time.
Sam Ashton, 16, of Leominster was at the airport for a flight instruction. He works at a fast food restaurant and makes enough to pay his for cell phone and a flight lesson every other week.
“I love aviation in general,” said Ashton. He said it’s hard to describe what it is that draws him to the air, but said people understand as soon as they go up. His grandfather was a pilot in World War II and he’s been hanging around the airport for year, but didn’t start his flight instructions until May.
Patrick Cumming, 12, of Princeton said he just wanted to try the experience. He’s played flight simulators on his computer and dreams of flying helicopters while his twin brother Jack is more interested in airplanes.
His father Robert Cumming said they will get access to online instructions through the Fitchburg Pilots Association. Mother Melissa Cumming joked there was another motivation at stake.
“It’s so they can fly us to Bermuda,” she said. “That’s the plan.”