ARLINGTON — In spite of heavy rain and high winds on Saturday, Sept. 28, the Arlington Airport Appreciation Day drew an estimated 200 attendees, who piloted flight simulators and painted toy airplanes in lieu of going up in the air themselves.
Although the inclement weather cancelled the day’s main activity of free airplane rides for children aged 8-17 years old, the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Aviation Division still saw 108 kids at its paint-an-airplane booth, before the tent was taken down out of concerns that it might blow over.
Marysville’s Daniel Dunn was all smiles in the flight simulator that day, but with a dad who’s worked both at Boeing and on board a Navy aircraft carrier, the family acknowledged that their boy probably has a touch of aviation in his blood.
While the Dunns were attending their second Arlington Airport Appreciation Day, Lashaunna Hepworth and her kids braved the elements to make the relatively short trek from their Smokey Point home to check out the event for the first time this year.
“We just love airplanes,” Hepworth said. “Getting these kids interested in possibly becoming future aviators is a great idea.”
Jim McGauhey had hoped to take some of those children on flights with him in his Cessna that day, as part of the EAA Young Eagles Program, which he credited with keeping him active in aviation as well.
“This is my primary excuse to fly anymore,” McGauhey said. “I used to do business in California before I retired, but what better reason do I have to keep flying now? Whether they take up aviation as a hobby or as a career, 7 percent of all currently active pilots started out as Young Eagles.”
“We’re hoping to impart some of our passion for flight onto these kids,” said fellow pilot Miguel Nelson. “If you introduce them to aviation when they’re young, they won’t be afraid to go up in a plane.”
McGauhey deemed the Arlington Airport an excellent educational and economic resource, an assessment with which Arlington Airport Coordinator Tim Mensonides concurred.
“This was still a great day to showcase the Arlington Airport,” Mensonides said. “Part of the aviation game is the weather, and this teaches people that you have to respect that.”
Mensonides cited a 2012 WSDOT Aviation Division economic study which reported that businesses at the Arlington Airport have a total economic output of $144,200,000 per year.
“The study found the airport creates 566 direct jobs and 411 indirect jobs, equaling 977 positions, with a total income of $46.6 million per year. The estimated annual spending by visitors who travel to the airport is $2,732,700 per year, which creates 41 direct and indirect jobs.”