The deep shadow of Mount Magazine loomed large as the sun slowly rose over the cold and windswept runways of the Booneville Municipal Airport on the morning of Saturday, Jan. 28th. With Mayor Jerry Wilkins looking on, airplanes from Booneville, Fort Smith, Ozark, and Etna waited on the tarmac as their pilots warmed themselves with coffee while discussing the wind, the weather, and the plans for the day’s activities.
Those activities were Young Eagles and Eagle flights sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 1156 based at Etna, and scheduled for the Greenwood High School Jr. AFROTC cadets in grades 9-12. Many of the cadets had never flown before, and most had never flown in small general aviation aircraft. The cadets are led by Major Lewis Clark and Senior Master Sergeant Charlie Parnell.
The EAA-approved pilots who volunteered their time and airplanes were Airport Manager Bill Tucker, David Zirbel, David Brown, Gary Martin, Chuck Stanick, Brian Kremer, and Ron Hutain.
Twenty-nine cadets and their siblings received first-hand experience in aircraft flight and ground operations.
“The purpose of these EAA programs is to give people an enjoyable aviation experience and hopefully inspire them to become pilots,” said David Zirbel, President of EAA Chapter 1156. “Events like this would not be possible without the support of the EAA, our local pilots, and airports like Booneville Municipal Airport. I want to thank them for their hard work and cooperation and I want to thank the leaders and parents of these cadets for the privilege of allowing us to share our passion for aviation.”
A special treat was the arrival and aerial demonstration by Dr. James “Bulldog 1” Kelly in his North American T-28 Trojan. The Trojan was a Korea and Vietnam-era trainer and saw action during the Vietnam War as a counter-insurgency aircraft. The Booneville Municipal Airport and EAA 1156 thanks Dr. Kelly for bringing his airplane to the event.
EAA Chapter 1156 has Young Eagles events open to the public scheduled in 2017 for the Etna airfield on May 27, at Booneville Municipal Airport on July 15, and tentatively scheduled at the Ozark Airport on Oct. 7.