WOODLAKE – As a child, Chris Crumly would watch the crop dusters fly over the Valley criss-crossing over crops and buzzing beyond roads without any restrictions. Like most children in the Valley, he dreamed of one day flying in an airplane but his family could not afford the cost of a ticket. In fact, he never saw the inside of an airplane until he purchased one.
But thanks to Crumly, kids ages 8 to 17 in Woodlake won’t have to wait that long for their first plane ride. This Saturday, May 5, Crumly will be among a handful of pilots giving free rides in their private planes at the Woodlake Airport as part of the kickoff to Woodlake Western Week.
“Most kids are either frozen with fear or smiling ear to ear,” Valley pilot Chris Crumley said. “And by the time we get back on the ground, they are always smiling.”
Crumly has given more than 400 young people a free demonstration ride in his plane since joining the Woodlake Flying Tigers chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).
“It’s something almost every kid wants to do,” Crumley said. “And the smile on their face is a lot of fun for me.”
After parents sign a consent form, pilots talk about the airplane, complete a careful “walk around” preflight inspection and identifying the parts that control the airplane. Once inside the plane, pilots will buckle you in and describe the interior of the plane, including the instrument panel. Once in the air, you’ll see the earth and sky in a new and exciting way. You’ll experience the wonderful freedom of flight that many people only dream about. Most flights last between 15 and 20 minutes.
The free flights are part of the EAA’s “Young Eagles” Program, which teaches children and teens about aviation by giving them the experience of riding in a plane. The EAA Young Eagles program was launched in 1992 to give interested young people an opportunity to go flying in a general aviation airplane. EAA is a worldwide organization with 200,000 members who enjoy all facets of recreational flight and who have flown more than 2 million young people. The Young Eagles program goal is to allow young people to experience positive activities and discover the possibilities available to them within the world of aviation. These flights are offered free of charge and are made possible through the generosity of EAA member volunteers.
Crumly is among the more than 50,000 volunteers around the world who have donated their time and aircraft to the effort is Chris Crumly of Woodlake, California. All pilots in the Young Eagles program explain the safe operation of airplanes and principles of flight before the short trips. Participating young people become official Young Eagles with the flight. The names of the pilots and the participants are also included in the “World’s Largest Logbook,” which is on permanent display in the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and online through the Young Eagles web site. Young Eagles also have access to an online pilot training course, made possible by Sporty’s Pilot Shops, located in Batavia, Ohio.
“Even for people who have flown commercially, flying in a four-seater is an entirely different experience,” Crumley said. “When you are 30,000 feet in the air the ground goes by real slow. But when you are 2,000 feet up it goes by pretty fast.”
For more information, call Crumly at 559-805-9221, Lucky Oldfield at 559-804-0946 or visit www.youngeagles.org.