FORT MOHAVE — It’s obvious that children taking their first airplane flights are going to be smiling.
It’s probably not surprising that youngsters who have been up before still find it fascinating.
The biggest surprise may be the effect taking them up has on the pilots who volunteer their time and their planes to make the free rides possible.
“It’s a privilege for us,” said plane owner Richard Colburn. “Everybody will remember their first airplane ride.”
Colburn’s plane was out for maintenance Saturday, but eight other planes were available, and they took about 40 area youngsters for 20-minute flights through the local skies.
The Young Eagle Flights, presented by the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association, are in their sixth year.
Alison Colburn of the EAA said the event is meant to introduce young people to flight and get them interested in general aviation.
“Maybe get a few to even go on and become pilots,” she said.
The morning included a short “ground school” class in which the youngsters learned about the aerodynamics of flight.
Hayze Gaunt, 10, flew with Mike Mann in a Cessna 182. It wasn’t her first trip up, but her second.
She said she enjoyed the Saturday trip more, because the trepidation she felt on her first flight last November was absent.
“I was very afraid (then),” Gaunt said.
Pilot Stan Gatewood said the morning rain didn’t mess up plans for the event.
“It was rainy, but the air was actually very smooth,” he said. “It was a fantastic experience for the kids.”
Gatewood said the weather held things up for only 10 or 15 minutes.
“As long as visibility is good and we don’t get too much wind and there’s no lightning, we’re good,” he said.
Gatewood grew up around airplanes. On his family farm in Indiana, there was a flight school. He had two planes at Sun Valley Airport on Saturday, including the 1946 Piper Cub in which he learned to fly.
He said he enjoys sharing the love of flight with young people.
“The kids get so enthused, and even the parents are so grateful,” he said.
One of Gatewood’s passengers was Noah Richey, 13, who said he gets airborne every chance he gets.
“I’ve lost count,” he said in terms of how many flights he has taken. “I just like airplanes.”
Richey said he’s not currently thinking about a career as a pilot, but that he is taking lessons and will be flying in the future.
“I have to be 14 to solo and 16 to get my pilot’s license,” he said.