Mason Dobrenen, a student at Clay High School in Green Cove Springs, took part in a unique aviation experience Oct. 23, courtesy of the U.S. Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) “Young Eagles” program.
“I didn’t know what to expect when my geometry teacher asked our class if anyone would like to fly with a stunt pilot before the NAS Jax Air Show – so I raised my hand and she gave me some paperwork to fill out,” said Dobrenen.
The Young Eagles program was launched in 1992 by the EAA in its mission to provide a meaningful flight experience – free of charge – in a general aviation aircraft for young people (primarily between the ages of 8 and 17). Flights are provided by EAA pilots worldwide.
Sean Tucker, a renowned aerobatic pilot who performed at last weekend’s NAS Jax Air Show, is the current Young Eagles volunteer chairman. He met Mason and his father, AWF1 Michael Dobrenen (a P-3 flight engineer attached to
Fleet Readiness Center Southeast) in NAS Jax Hangar 117 as Team Oracle was pushing its Challenger III aerobatic aircraft to the flight line.
“This is such a unique experience for Mason, because Sean Tucker is such a well known air show performer. And as a bonus, I’ll be flying in the Team Oracle photographers plane to document the first 10 minutes of the flight.”
The EAA Young Eagles flight lasted about 30 minutes.
Upon landing Tucker explained, “We did climbs, turns and roller coasters (gentle wing overs) at speeds of up to 180 knots – about 200 miles-per-hour. Mason just really got with it and was very cool about learning how to fly roller coaster lines.”
As Tucker signed off on Dobrenen’s official Young Eagles flight certificate, he recalled that as they approached the NAS Jax runway, he jokingly asked Dobrenen if he’d like to land the plane.
“He responded, ‘heck yeah, let’s give it a try’ – and I said just kidding, maybe on your next flight.”
Dobrenen said the roller coaster maneuver was the most memorable part of the flight.
“Oh yeah, I’d definitely come back and do this again. Feeling the G-force push you down in the seat when climbing or turning. And then, when you put the nose down, it feels like zero-gravity for a few seconds.”