BUCYRUS – A local couple has provided more than 100 free flights to children through the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program.
The Young Eagles program was started in 1992 and gives kids ages 8 to 17 their first free flight in an airplane.
Local pilots Sam and Peg Ballou of Bucyrus have collectively flown more than 100 flights for the program. Both have been participating in Young Eagles since 2010 and say the experience has been incredible. They even have aspirations of starting a local flight camp because of their involvement.
“It gives kids the opportunity to experience flight,” Sam said.
As of last week, a total of 2,111,040 flights had been given to children as part of the Young Eagles program. All of the pilots must be experienced, registered with the Federal Aviation Administration and volunteer their time and resources to participate.
The Ballous are both longtime flyers. Peg is a flight instructor out of the Port Bucyrus-Crawford County airport and said she participates not only to give kids the experience of flying, but to make them excited enough to want to come back and take lessons.
Children who participate are taken up in the air for about 15 to 20 minutes and also get pre-flight safety instructions and a explanation of the plane and how it works. As part of the program, they receive a log book to keep track of how many flights they’ve done and a certificate of completion.
All of the children’s names are entered into the World’s Largest Log Book at the Experiemental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Sam emphasized that while the experience is very rewarding, it isn’t always the cheapest.
“People that give Young Eagle flights, we take on all of the expense ourselves,” he said.
Both said the experience is so much more than just getting kids up in the air but inspiring, them to pursue a career in aviation. Peg said, especially with the recent push for STEM careers, aviation-related jobs are an excellent choice and present future generations with lots of options.
These jobs are in high demand, given the number of people retiring from the field, they said.
“It is a wide-open career field for young people,” Peg said.