An open house at an airpark means flying is part of the celebration.
“It’s the first time I’ve done this,” said Joseph Meister, 11. “I’m nervous but excited.”
Meister joined the aviation community Saturday during Sun Valley Airport’s fourth annual open house. As part of the celebration, members of the airpark’s Experimental Aircraft Association chapter provided free airplane rides to children between the ages of 8 and 17.
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, said Jim Lambert, owner of Sun Valley Airport.
“We’ve got pilots and we’ve got planes,” Lambert said. “Our goal is to introduce flying to young people and encourage an interest in a career in aviation.”
To help the organization with its mission, five volunteer EAA pilots took children on a 15 to 20 minute tour along the west side of the Colorado River and south and east across the desert.
“Each Young Eagle gets a certificate and a log book,” Lambert said. The organization also gives each child who completes a flight additional opportunities to participate in aviation, including a free online ground school.
“We do it because it’s fun,” said John Kish, an EAA pilot who gave rides in his 1961 Cessna 182. “To introduce kids to flying — it’s a wonderful thing. I really enjoy seeing the look on their faces and the excitement of their first flight.”
In addition to the EAA, representatives from the Civil Air Patrol, Flight Training, and Air Methods were on hand, as was information from The Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots established in 1929.
“The best part of these events is the questions from the kids,” said Charles Andrews, Air Methods helicopter pilot, who along with a Native American Air Ambulance and crew landed their crafts at the airpark to take part. “Although sometimes they are smarter than I am. But events like these introduce kids to what’s out there; they learn they can go to a local flight school and get trained and (it) makes them aware that becoming a pilot — or a flight paramedic or nurse — is a very achievable goal.”
Some of the children who make the trek to an EAA Young Eagles event already have an interest in aviation, Andrews said.
“Some of them already know someone who flies,” Andrews said. “Their parent or an uncle or someone in their life is involved in aviation and they decide they want it, too. But even kids who don’t have a pilot in the family can get excited about a career in aviation through events like these.”
Andrews told his grandmother he wanted to be a helicopter pilot when he was 3 years old — his father was a pilot.
“To inspire some kid to be a pilot would be a great thing,” he said.
Since the EAA began in 1992, more than 2 million children across the country have taken a free flight.
“We’re introducing aviation to our future pilots,” said Stan Gatewood, Sun Valley Airport EAA member.
Sun Valley Airport, 7 miles south of Bullhead City at 5050 Bison Ave., is a privately owned airport open to the public, Lambert said. An airpark community, it also offers the opportunity for pilots to build a home and hanger near the airstrip.
Pilots who live in the airpark community are not the only pilots using the airstrip; private aircraft pilots take off and land at will. The airstrip offers a pilots lounge, fuel, courtesy car rental arrangements and short and long-term plane storage. Recently installed amenities include new landing lights and the construction of 12 new hangers.
“Many people don’t know we’re here, although the airstrip was paved back in the mid-1980s,” Lambert said. “We all love flying and planes and welcome the opportunity to share that with others.”