Sun Valley Airport’s third annual Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles program wants to turn children’s flights of fancy into real flights.
“The Young Eagles program at Sun Valley is the perfect opportunity for kids who probably would never otherwise have the opportunity to get a free airplane ride,” said Allison Colburn, Sun Valley EAA Young Eagles program vice president.
Members of the airpark’s EAA chapter will provide a limited number of free airplane flights March 26 to children between the ages of 8 and 17. To take a free flight, children must arrive accompanied by a parent by 7 a.m. at Sun Valley Airport, 5050 Bison Street. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged, Colburn said. Parents may pre-register their children for a free flight by calling 425-359-3805.
“Last year five pilots took about 60 children for free rides over the valley,” said Jim Lambert, Sun Valley Airport owner. “Our goal is to take 75 kids up this year.”
Representing aviation enthusiasts, the EAA is an international organization that promotes and supports recreational flying. The EAA’s Young Eagle program is designed to grow participation in general aviation through inspiring young people to learn to fly, Lambert said.
On hand for the day will be representatives from the Civil Air Patrol, high school ROTC, airline pilots, flight instructors, crop dusters, military recruiters, and members of the Rio Colorado 99s, local representatives of an international group of female aviators.
“The entire experience is designed to introduce kids to flying, show them the possibility of an aviation career or avocation, and that becoming a pilot is something attainable,” he said.
The day’s activities encourage flight exploration, Colburn said. Young Eagles take part in a pre-flight briefing, a pre-flight airplane safety check, and then a free 15-20 minute airplane ride.
“After they land, kids have the opportunity to take their interest further,” she said. “They receive a flight log book, and information to access free online ground school training. What many people don’t realize is the Rio Colorado 99s offer scholarships to help people get certificates and ratings. We have the world-class Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University right in Prescott — becoming a pilot is very, very doable.”
The event will have food available for purchase, and a variety of aircraft to see.
“We’ll have some Cessna, Cherokees, Beechcraft, and hopefully a staggerwing — a bi-plane — will be flying in from California for people to look at,” said Lambert. “The day should be fun for adults and kids alike.”
Since the EAA began the Young Eagles program in 1992, more than
1.9 million children across the country have taken a free flight.
“We know of kids who have gone on to become airline or military pilots as a result of their participation in this program,” said Stan Gatewood, Sun Valley Airport EAA member. “Our goal is to interest kids in flying, whether as a career or for fun, and to help show them that it is attainable.”
Ed Felter, Sun Valley Airport manager, said, “We know it’s the experience of an airplane ride that gets kids into flying. We want to keep general aviation alive and healthy, and to make that happen, kids need to understand they can do this.”
Gatewood said, “Having a plane is a lot like having an R.V. or a boat. A good, used airplane can be had for the price of a mid-range new car.”
Sun Valley Airport, 7 miles south of Bullhead City, is a privately owned airport open to the public, established in the 1980s. An airpark community, it also offers the opportunity for pilots to build a home and hanger near the airstrip, Lambert said.
“It’s not an odd thing here to see a small plane taxi down the street heading toward the runway — it’s a very convenient thing if you own an airplane,” Gatewood said.
Pilots who live in the community are not the only pilots using the airstrip; private aircraft pilots take off and land as well.
“The airstrip sees an average of five takeoffs or landings every day,” Airport Manager Felter said. “Some people fly in and out for business, some for pleasure. The reasons vary a lot, but the airstrip is pretty regularly used.”
Lambert said, “Flying is addictive. We want to take the mystery out of becoming a pilot, and put back in the enthusiasm.”