As a pilot, Larry Rice believes that inspiration can give you wings.
Wednesday, he invited Sandra Thurman’s kindergarten class from Bryn Mawr Elementary School in Loma Linda to his hangar at the Redlands Municipal Airport in hopes of inspiring children to take flight.
“Aviation as we know it today (sees) very few people coming out and learning to fly,” Rice said. “What I really hope for is somewhere down the road some of these kids will remember this and want to invest in learning to fly.”
Rice’s tours began two years ago and focus on giving school-aged children a better understanding of what goes into owning and flying an airplane. It also exposes the group to airplane-related careers available to them once they graduate, he said.
Thurman’s class toured the hangar for more than an hour, taking some time to ask questions from “How does an airplane fly?” to “At what age did you start flying?”
Pupils also spend a few minutes looking inside the plane at its various instruments and gadgets, including where luggage is stored.
After a quick Q&A the real fun began.
As Thurman’s group walked to a waiting area near the airport’s lobby, Rice was preparing his plane to fly around the airport.
As he came in for a landing, Thurman’s class waved and hollered in Rice’s direction.
Thurman called the moment bittersweet, adding more meaning to already a special day as it marked one of the final field trips she’ll take as an educator. Following the end of the 2015-16 school year, Thurman will retire after 26 years.
“There are days like today… when I know I’m going to miss these moments,” the Redlands resident said. “Although, I’m not going to miss waking up at 5:30 in the morning, I am going to enjoy being able to visit my grandkids (in Colorado) whenever I feel like it.”
It is also Thurman’s hope similar tours like Wednesday’s continue to happen at the Redlands airport.
“I enjoy having the kids out here at the airport,” he said. “It is becoming a great asset to the city and when people find out about it their whole perception changes about what the airport is. We’re trying to do something to show the value of this airport and in San Bernardino County, this airport is a real gem compared to other airports.”
To learn more about the tours, go to www.oldguyscfi.com.