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Youth aviation summer camp takes to the skies

From left, Owen Bitar, Chris Jackson, Seth Nichols, Spencer Nash, Gary Elliott of the Mission Aviation Training Academy, Dana Spencer and Bruce Wolff of Brigade Air pause for a moment, during their training flights as part of the Aug. 19-25 aviation summer camp at the Arlington Municipal Airport. -
From left, Owen Bitar, Chris Jackson, Seth Nichols, Spencer Nash, Gary Elliott of the Mission Aviation Training Academy, Dana Spencer and Bruce Wolff of Brigade Air pause for a moment, during their training flights as part of the Aug. 19-25 aviation summer camp at the Arlington Municipal Airport.
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ARLINGTON Half a dozen area teens got a chance to take the controls of a plane at the Aug. 19-25 aviation summer camp at the Arlington Municipal Airport.
The Mission Aviation Training Academy and The Point Church of Arlington hosted the camp, organized by Brigade Air of Tucson, Ariz., for 14- to 18-year-olds interested in becoming pilots.
Brigade Airs Bruce Wolff, who founded the program in 2001, admitted that the camp usually attracts one to two dozen students, and attributed the relatively low turnout in Arlington partly to poor flying weather.
We spent our first day and a half indoors, but these kids didnt even get upset, Wolff said. Theyve been highly motivated, attentive and disciplined. You cant normally say that about a whole group, but weve got a good one here.
Wolff and MATAs Gary and Stacie Elliott all have several years of experience in mission aviation, which provides air support for religious and humanitarian programs around the world.
Its a vital link, Wolff said. We used to think that mission aviation would eventually no longer be necessary, but weve actually gone backwards in that respect. By 2030, theres going to be close to one billion roadless people in the world. Theres no other way to get relief and supplies to these people, other than through the air.
Stacie Elliott touted the Arlington Airport as an ideal location to prepare prospective pilots for a number of the issues they might encounter as mission aviators.
Weve got a nearby international border, Elliott said. Weve got a variety of natural surroundings, and our rain and winters get them ready for those conditions. Obviously, you wont encounter iced-over runways if youre flying missions to the tropics, but several of them go up into Alaska, as well.
Wolff was likewise impressed with the Arlington Airport.
Its a busy place, Wolff said. Everyones talking and everyones sharp, which you have to be without a control tower. Its optimal for this sort of activity.
While The Point Church furnished the students with sleeping and cooking facilities, MATA and Brigade Air conducted a ground school, which covered basic aerodynamic principles and aircraft systems, to familiarize them with the aircraft and introduce them to flight orientation.
Students also took field trips to Boeing and the Paul Allen Flying Heritage Museum, and experienced mission aviation through videos and stories from field-experienced missionary pilots.
Each camp takes advantage of the resources of its local area, Wolff said. They have a lot in Arlington.
Arlingtons Owen Bitar, 15, has been interested in flying since his uncle took him up in a plane at the age of 5, and he recommended the camp to others his age.
I couldnt even say what I like about it, Bitar said. I just enjoy the feeling of being up there.
Everyone involved in aviation knows that operation of aircraft is very expensive, but MATA is collaborating with Brigade Air to underwrite the costs of this aviation summer camp, to keep the price as low as possible and make it affordable for more young people, said Gary Elliott, who added that Brigade Air and MATA partnered to provide a $1,000 scholarship to each camper. That reduces the cost to only $450 per camper. Between that and the pilots who are donating their time, thats a pretty good deal.
MATA, located at the Arlington Municipal Airport, was founded in 1998 as a non-profit means of helping train pilots, not only to meet the qualifications for major mission aviation organizations, but also to serve smaller, independent mission ministries.
The MATA Web site is www.mata-usa.org and you can call their office at 360-435-8179, or 425-231-5855.

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