Alexander Demers became one of the first harbingers of the Cleveland National Airshow today as he and famed stunt pilot Sean Tucker flew in tight circles over downtown Cleveland.
For Tucker, who performs in the Cleveland National Air Show this weekend, it was just another data point in a career spanning 40 years and 25,000 hours in the air.
For Alex, 16, the time in the air with Tucker was probably his most exciting to date.
Rocky River teen takes flight of a lifetime
Alexander Demers, 16 of Rocky River takes the flight of a lifetime with famed stunt pilot Sean Tucker Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, under the auspices of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles Program. Tucker will perform at the Cleveland National Air Show this weekend at Burke Lakefront Airport.
The Rocky River resident has been up in the air before, but only on commercial aircraft where he played about as much of a role as his luggage.
His father, Jim, is a former Navy pilot who flies research missions for NASA here and was itching to get his son in the air in a more meaningful way.
A friend directed him to the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program.
Thus, Alex was invited to sit second seat with Tucker, who chairs the Young Eagles program and is one of 8,000 volunteer pilots who have taken more than 1.9 million youths aloft since 1992.
Before the flight, Tucker told Alex to think of the plane, a German-made Extra 300L, as “a $400,000 sports car,” and assured Alex that his hands would be on the controls for some of the flight.
They were, along with his feet because the rudder is controlled by foot pedals.
While the flight did not include feats Tucker will perform this weekend, it offered a vivid flight experience, in no small measure because Alex got an unprecedented view through a large, clear canopy — and from the lone front seat.
“This experience can’t really compare to any other,” Alex said when he was back on the ground at Lost Nation Airport in Willoughby.
Tucker said, “He couldn’t believe how calm it is up there and how much he could see. He admitted in the beginning that he was scared and by admitting it, he overcame it.”
Even though Alex became a little queasy toward the end of the 30-minute flight, Tucker said that he immediately said, “Can we do that again?”
Following the flight, the senior Demers, on active duty with the Navy for 12 years, explained to his son the role of gravity and how it affects pilots.
Tucker looked on from a short distance and called it a bonding moment for the two.
“Look at his pop and look at the smile,” Tucker said.
“He (Alex) will be back in the sky,” Tucker predicted.
Alex can go on line on the Young Eagles website and complete four lessons. Then the EAA will send him a check to cover his next flight, “and there are scholarship opportunities,” Tucker said.
To get involved in the program, parents and kids can go to YoungEagles.org and click on ‘Find a Flight’ on the home page. “From there, you can call a local Young Eagle coordinator,” a spokeswoman for the program said in an email.
It is open to youths between 8 and 17 years old.