On Saturday morning at the Redlands Municipal Airport, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 845, along with the Redlands Airport Association (RAA), celebrated National Aviation Fly-In Day and the Young Eagles program, offering free flights for youngsters.
“We’re trying to get a new generation of pilots interested in flying,” said Beverly Buck, the Young Eagle coordinator.
“We’re on our 25th year. Over 2 million children have participated in the program worldwide. “When we were at our peak, we had thousands of kids,” said Buck. “There were at least 120 to 150 kids a day.
“We offered the Young Eagle Program once every two months. Now we run it four times a year.”
Robert LaChausse Jr. of Highland was waiting for his turn to go aloft with one of the volunteer pilots.
“I feel excited that I get to go flying,” said LaChausse. “My dad flies for fun. My grandfather flew, too. I’d like to learn how to fly later in life, because when my dad flies, he gets excited about it. I’d like to fly a low-wing plane.”
“The most dangerous part of our day is driving to the airport,” said Robert LaChausse Sr. “It’s very difficult to make these planes do what you don’t want them to do.”
“The hardest part is to make it stop flying.
“Each pilot does a 15- to 20-minute pre-flight check on their aircraft before they go up. We don’t do that with our cars.”
“I’ve always had an interest in aviation,” said Highland resident George Corrales. The 18-year-old has been involved with planes for the last four to five years.
“My mom did some research, and here I am, at the Redlands Municipal Airport.”
Volunteer and aerobatic pilot Tom Jones was on hand for the event.
“Aerobatics got me into flying. I like the idea of not flying straight and level,” said Jones.
Jones has given more than 100 rides to Young Eagles. He has taken young Corrales flying twice in his stunt plane.
“Hopefully, I’d like to fly tankers,” said Corrales. “It’s a challenge. You’re flying in tough situations. Flying in a stunt plane, you are gaining invaluable experience and knowledge.”
“We’ve had almost 3 dozen youngsters show up for today’s event,” said Buck.
“Every year it’s different. Sometimes we have too many planes. Other times we don’t have enough Eagles.”
“We choose to fly in the morning because there is less wind,” said volunteer pilot Dan Chapman. “The heat makes it a little bumpy up there.”
After the plane took off on Runway 26, the passengers flew over Highland then headed southwest toward Interstate 10.
The flight brought the entire area of Yucaipa into view, as well as Fishermen’s Retreat, San Timoteo Canyon, Mentone, Redlands Community Hospital and wonderfully green lush orange groves that accented the terrain.
Flying at a cruising speed of approximately 120 mph at 3,000 feet, the Young Eagles were captivated at this new experience, during their 20-minute tour.
Piper planes with retractable wheels and Cessna aircraft with fixed landing gear were used to ferry the potential pilots.
The pilots would take up two to three passengers on each trip.
“Even in an airliner you won’t see as much of the good stuff that we get to see in a small plane,” said Chapman.