Over a 100 teenagers and children flew in the Young Eagles program at the Porterville airport on Saturday as parents and grandparents watched from outside the runway.
Dozens of families stood in line patiently waiting for their children’s turn to fly in small planes.
The Young Eagles program helps children and teenagers get involved with aviation.
Ten pilots support this program at the airport volunteering their time and planes.
Violet Guerrero, 8, with her mother Alyssa, said, “I’m nervous, but I’d like to go up in a plane.” Her Mom said, “I’m very excited. I think it’s a great experience for the kids.”
Arianna Mendoza, 12, flew in a plane when she was six, and was excited to fly again.
Madison Sandoval, 6, stood with her teenage cousins, Isaiah and Noah Rios, who are 16 and 13. The boys flew in one of the first flights and were very enthusiastic.
“We had a great plane ride,” said Noah, “It was a once in a lifetime experience. It was fun and amazing. I scared my brother when the plane was turning. “
The boys explained four people have to balance the planes weight; they were with another boy and the pilot. Their grandfather, Ernie Sandoval, was excited for his kids because he remembered how great his first airplane flight was.
“I’m very grateful to the pilots for doing this program,” said Noah, “Our pilot, Johnny Castro, was really nice. He taught us a lot about the plane and its flight instrumentation. We flew in a low-wing plane.”
Elizabeth Steenbergen, 11, and sister, Dorothy, 13, looked forward to the flight but were a little scared because of the plane’s size.
Because of 4H responsibilities, they’ve never been able to participate and were thrilled to be at the airport, said mother Rachelle Rupert. She was not nervous and knows a pilot who works for the school district, who does this often and says, “It’s a blast.”
Alvin Hernandez was excited for his daughter, Aliana, 9, to go up in a plane. They live in Arizona and are visiting family in Porterville. Aliana said, “I was more nervous than scared.”
Mary Higgins, brought daughters Wren and Phoenix, 10, and son Falcon, 10, and friends Luke Hohenfield, 8, and Patience Ross, 11
“I’m watching my babies fly up into the air,” she said as she gazed at two planes taking off the runway. “I’m a little nervous, since it’s their first time ever in a plane. This is such an amazing opportunity for the kids of Porterville to be able to fly for free.”
When the plane landed, the children ran back to Higgins full of excitement.
Phoenix said her ears had “popped” and when the plane took off it felt like they were floating.
“It was really cool flying in the plane,” said Wren. “We got to see Success Lake and a sharp left turn. It felt like you were going to go upside down. We also saw a race track.”
“I got to drive the plane,” said Patience, with a huge smile. “I wasn’t scared. It was really fun.” All the girls wanted to fly again, and said their pilot was the “Best pilot ever.”
All of the children who participated received a “Young Eagles” certificate and they could become a member of the EAA flight plan, which would entitle them to free admission to science and technology museums, access to free flight courses, and more free aviation and technology activities.
Wade Southwick, a teacher from Monache High School, said the Young Eagles program helps kids with their learning through hands on experience.
The program gives them an incentive and a reason to learn science, technology, engineering, and math as STEM students. The major STEM courses are now including art into the program.
Scott Raya, a pilot, said, “It is so exciting to see kids get interested in aviation.”
Kristel Cellan, 12, and her brother, Carl, 11, enjoyed their first plane flight and were very enthusiastic, and thought it was a great learning experience. Kristel said their pilot Jeff Hendrick, was really nice.
Margie Cellan, their mother, said the Young Eagles program was wonderful for the kids. She was expecting to pay for the airplane flights and was astounded when she found out they were free. It was an incredible opportunity for their children, she said, and they would never forget.
“To see the smiles and expressions on every pilot and child’s face makes it all worthwhile,” said Cellan, “I would highly recommend it.”
“It’s been a great day, and the kids have had a great time and enjoyed themselves,” said Scott Raya, a pilot and organizer for the Young Eagles program.