Dreaming of being a pilot one day is an all-too-common wish for children, but taking that first initiative to enter a cockpit is a step rarely achieved.
Hoping to inspire future aviators, a collective of local Lake County pilots will offer free flights to youth ages 8-17 at a Young Eagles event on Saturday, Nov. 9 starting at 10 a.m. Hosted by Oregon Outback Aviators, a flying club formed less than two years ago, the event is a showcase for youth to get behind the controls of an actual aircraft and learn the basics of flying. Each participating youth will receive a free 20-minute flight, a logbook, and pancake breakfast, courtesy of Lake County’s flying club.
The event is part of a national program offered by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) that has to date provided more than two million introductory flights for youth to stimulate interest in general aviation and the application of STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) taught in schools.
Interested participants can enroll the day of the event at the Lake County Airport’s main hangar, where a 20-minute flight time will be assigned and a pre-flight briefing provided.
Flights will be conducted around the Lakeview and Goose Lake area, with kids being given the opportunity to be behind the controls of one of two Cessna 182 aircraft that will be provided for the event. After landing each young pilot will be given their own logbook to keep track of all future flights, as well as be enrolled in the EAA’s registrar of Young Eagles pilots, making each eligible to access many EAA aviation educational materials available online for free.
The event is the latest effort by the Oregon Outback Aviators to increase general aviation activities in Lake County. The brainchild of Bruce Webbon, a pilot and retired NASA engineer who owns his own aircraft, the club is a very informal collective of fellow pilots and aviation enthusiasts with an interest in flying. The group meets on the third Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. at the airport hangar’s main lounge, the public is welcome to attend.
Initially the club sought to purchase their own aircraft as a means to offer reduced rental rates for members. When participants became sheepish about the financing, instead airport manager Tom Andrews purchased a Cessna 182, which has been made available as a training aircraft for flight lessons or rental for local pilots.
To facilitate local flight students, an instructor from the Klamath Falls area has been traveling to Lakeview each weekend to train students, and Webbon has recently become qualified as a ground school instructor. He intends to become a fully certified flight instructor by next spring.
Club membership is $100, but it includes a 15% reduced rental rate for Andrews’ aircraft. At normally $140 per hour with fuel, the $125 reduced rental would pay off the membership fee with only seven hours of flight time.
Earlier this year the Oregon Outback Aviators hosted an open house at the airport, and despite bad weather had tremendous turnout of individuals interested in getting airborne, confirming the need for flight school services in Lake County.
Webbon is planning to launch a groundschool for pilots-in-training soon as a 10-12 week course, as well as flight mentoring or a separate course from the club. He is often asked to donate flights for various causes, but asks that for any request outside the club a donation is made either to Oregon Outback Aviators or the Oregon Outback Humane Society. Webbon also volunteers to fly for Lake County Search and Rescue.
The Young Eagles event will be another opportunity to showcase the airport facilities, which in addition to operating as a year-round general aviation airport and seasonal fire station for Single-Engine Air Tankers (SEAT), has seen several renovations in recent years. The runway and ramp areas have been repaved, and taxiways chip-sealed.
“We have gotten several people back into flying,” Webbon said proudly of the Outback Aviators flying club. “We have recruited flight students into the club. We hope this event helps inspire kids to want to learn to fly.”
The Lake County Airport is located at 17819 Airport Rd. in Lakeview.