Flying isn’t just a hobby. It’s a passion.
Pilots hope to make that a reality for kids and their families Saturday at the North Palm Beach County Airport, 11600 Aviation Blvd. About 40 planes and helicopters will be on display for Aviation Day 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.Admission is free.
“Most airports are all fenced off for security purposes. This makes it more convenient for them to get out there, watch the planes and see what it’s all about,” Rick Golightly, Young Eagles Coordinator for Chapter 203.
The best part? You can pay to soar through the clouds riding in some of the aircraft on display. Helicopter rides are $50 a person, while airplane rides range from $50 to $99.
The Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program offers free plane rides for kids between the ages of 8 and 17. Kids who get rides qualify for free online ground school — which otherwise costs about $200, Golightly said.
Most of the volunteer pilots were introduced to flying by a friend or a friend of a friend themselves, the Jupiter resident said.
“We’re kind of passing that on,” Golightly said. “You see the kids get that inspiration, and the pilots get re-inspired.”
His father was the manger of a small municipal airport in southern Illinois, and Golightly made his first solo flight when he was 16 years old. He remembers making runways in the dirt with accompanying airplane noises as a child.
He said organizer Pam Landis has been instrumental in getting Aviation Day off the ground.
Landis said it began about seven years ago with 130 people, two helicopters and four planes. Last year, about 5,000 people came to check out about 40 aircraft.
“It has grown. The word is getting out through the community,” she said.
The oldest aircraft on display are from the 1940s, Landis said. As for modern marvels, the Coast Guard, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, Missionary Flights International, Angel Flight and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue will be there.
Aviation Day is made possible through volunteer pilots and support of local flight schools, Landis said.
“The day is all about bringing youth to the airport to show them they can become pilots or mechanics or air traffic controllers,” Landis said.
She said she doesn’t expect a tentative plan to extend Runway 13/31 to affect the air show this year or any time soon. The event is on the main ramp, not the runway. It could be at least three years before a runway extension is complete.