Not every young eagle got to take flight Saturday, but they all had a good time anyway.
Once a year, as part of its open house festivities, Sun Valley Airpark’s Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles program members provide free airplane flights to children between the ages of 8 and 17.
Saturday’s flight program was cut short due to winds gusting up to 36 mph.
“In the four years we’ve been doing this, it’s the first time we’ve had to shut down early due to weather,” said Jim Lambert, owner of Sun Valley Airport. “We still got more than half the kids up before the winds got too strong.”
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.
“It’s awesome,” said Braden Monroe, who along with his sister Shayden, were participating in the Young Eagles program for the second year.
“It’s windy, so that’s a little scary,” said their mother Tonya Monroe. “I’ve flown to Hawaii, but that was on a real plane. This is a great program for the kids though, they were really excited.”
The program flights last 15 to 20 minutes taking an educationally scenic tour along the west side of the Colorado River and south and east across the desert.
“I got to see my house,” said Shayden Monroe. “And the river; it looked really small. Last year they let us steer a little, but it was too windy today.”
The entire experience is designed to introduce kids to flying, show them the possibility of an aviation career, and that becoming a pilot is something attainable, Lambert said.
“Before the flight, Young Eagles take part in ground school and a pre-flight airplane safety check,” he said. “After they land, the kids receive a certificate, a flight log book, and a coupon to access free online ground school training.”
Volunteers from the Civil Air Patrol, high school ROTC, airline pilots, flight instructors, crop dusters, military recruiters and members of the Rio Colorado 99s, a local aviation club for women, were on hand to introduce kids to flying and the potential for a career in aviation.
“When I was 7 years old, one of my dad’s friends took me up for a flight,” said Rick Colburn, one of the event’s three volunteer pilots. “I was hooked.
Participating in these flights is my way to give it back to the kids. I love flying and taking kids up for their first flight. The look on their faces is just awesome.”
Eleven-year-old Nicholas Tierini said, “I’ve been on a plane before, to California, but it was a lot bigger. This one felt way lighter; sitting in the back, I could see the river, and housing, it was crazy. It was an amazing experience, I can’t wait to do it again.”
Sun Valley Airport is a privately owned airpark community open to the public, Lambert said.
“As part of the open house, we’re here to introduce ourselves to our neighbors,” he said. “Many people don’t know we’re here, although the airstrip was paved back in the mid-1980s. We all love flying and planes, and welcome the opportunity to share that with others.
“We had wonderful support from the community this year for the Young Eagles flights, including Hooches, Fort Mohave Community Bank, the Kiwanis Noon Club, and Paradise Aviation out of Needles. Their sponsorship paid for the aviation fuel for the flights this year.”
The last flight of the day was a mixed bag for the Urbanczyk family; three of the four Urbanczyk children were able to get their flight.
“They were lucky,” said Robert McDonald, Civil Air Patrol cadet junior airman. “They were picked randomly, because someone didn’t show up.”
Rick Colburn introduced the Urbanczyk children, 8-year-old Hayden, 10-year-old Rhett, and 13-year-old Hannah, to flying.
All three of the first time flyers said they couldn’t wait to do it again.
Hannah Urbanczyk said, “The view was the best. Cars were like little ants. I’m not sure I liked it all, but it was pretty exciting up there.”
“We know of kids who have gone on to become airline or military pilots as a result of their participation in this program,” he said. “Our goal with the Young Eagles program is to help show kids that whether as a career or for fun, becoming a pilot is attainable.”
Colleen Urbanczyk said 12-year-old Addie had been hesitant to take a flight without her siblings. So Stan Gatewood took her out to his plane and gave her a tour.
“Is it as complicated as it looks?” Addie asked.
“Compared to a 747, it’s pretty simple,” Gatewood told her.
“Now I can’t wait to go,” Addie said.