MASSEY — At many airports now, even bags don’t fly for free. But at the Massey Aerodrome on Saturday, Sept. 13, anyone between the ages of 8 and 17 could fly at no cost during Young Eagles Day.
According to Kennedyville resident John Williamson, the airport manager and co-owner, seven pilots came out to introduce youth to aviation. Despite a drizzle that turned into steady rain in the afternoon, 18 youngsters embraced the opportunity to fly the skies of Kent County.
“Considering the kind of day it was, we had a great turnout,” said Williamson, who chauffeured three Young Eagles in his own Cessna. The pilots are members of the Experimental Aircraft Association, which runs the Young Eagles program.
According to its website, EAA was founded in 1953 and “has grown from a handful of aviation enthusiasts to an international organization representing virtually the entire spectrum of recreational aviation.”
EAA Chapter 1536 was in charge of the event. The group had been operating out of Middletown, Del., and recently decided to relocate its home base to Massey. “We hopped around a bit, and this is where we landed,” said Mike Gregory, the chapter’s vice president. Because the members of 1536 are still in the process of building their planes or were unable to attend, other EAA pilots who frequent the Massey airport answered the call.
One pilot, Raymond Lynn, a Maryland state trooper who flies a Piper Cherokee, returned to the aerodrome on Sunday to accommodate a small group of kids whose flights were rained out Saturday. T
hat kind of dedication to aviation — and a desire to instill a passion for flying in others — is the impetus for Young Eagles Day. Many of the pilots are very knowledgeable about general aviation, as well as their individual planes because they often build them, from the frame up.
Williamson said Massey has been holding Young Eagles events since the museum was established in 2002. For many participants, it is not only their first time in a small plane, but it is also their first flight ever.
While a few were visibly nervous Saturday before takeoff, all were excited after their landing, eager to tell their parents what they saw or about their turn at the controls.
If they so choose, the youth can continue on in the Young Eagles program, which progresses to EAA student membership, an online learn-to-fly course and a first flight lesson. The program can also help young aviators with flight training and college scholarships.
Gregory said the pilots had such a good time Saturday that they have agreed to run another Young Eagles event Oct. 4 in Georgetown, Del., during the town’s Wings and Wheels festival at the Sussex County Airport. Gregory also said he foresees his chapter’s return for the 2015 Young Eagles Day at Massey. “I would like to think so. I think our relationship there is only growing.”
For more information on the Young Eagles program, visit www.eaa.org and click on Young Eagles under the Flight Experience tab.