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Arlington Airport puts kids in pilots seat
ARLINGTON More than half a dozen area pilots donated their time and fuel to show off the fun of flying to children and adults alike, from across the Puget Sound region, during the Arlington Airport Appreciation Day May 5.
Arlington is lucky to have an airport of this caliber in its community that is willing and able to introduce its citizens to the joys of aviation, said Northwest Experimental Aircraft Association Executive Director Barbara Tolbert, whose organization sponsors the free Young Eagles flights for children ages 7-18. So many airports are fenced off and dont foster a fascination with flight among the young.
Kent Loos, coordinator of Young Eagles Chapter 21, hoped not only to pass on the fascination with aviation that he developed as a child, but also to show the adult residents of the Arlington-area community that their airport can be a good neighbor to them, too.
I caught the flying bug early on from my dad and I wanted to return the favor for those kids who might not be as fortunate as I was, said Loos, an Everett resident who has been involved with the Young Eagles for three of his four years in the EAA. He took me on plane rides just about everywhere. We also want to reach out to these communities and let them know that their airports arent just noise. Airports like this are vital partners to their communities, that boost their tax bases and services.
Bruce Angell, who has flown countless Young Eagles in his Socata Trinidad TB20 over the past seven years, believes this event demonstrates that the airport and its pilots are good neighbors to the city, by further linking the airport to the community.
They always want to fly over their own houses, Angell said. Theyre usually curious about the instruments, all the knobs and buttons, and how the controls actually work. Most of them are surprised by how easy it is to fly a plane and how quickly it can climb. Once I let them take the yoke, it really demystifies the experience for them.
Although Angell reported that many children are so involved in the experience that they barely even make a noise until theyve landed, he noted that groups such as regional Boy Scouts troops, which often attend to earn points toward their Aviation Merit Badges, typically subject him to intense and insightful series of questions during his preflight checks.
I love aviation and I love the looks on their faces, said Angell, a pilot since the early 1980s. Its important to connect kids to flying because theyre the future of recreational aviation. Old guys like me are just taking up space, he laughed.
Youre also mentoring these children, Tolbert told him. Where would they be without people like you?
Delmar Fadden and Peter Morton love aviation so that, after they worked at Boeing together for 30 years, they decided to enjoy their retirement by becoming joint owners of a Cirrus Design SR20 single-engine, piston-powered aircraft in 2000. While Fadden and Morton have flown the four-seater plane as far north as Alaska, as far east as Oshkosh, Wisc., and down the length of the Pacific coastline, theyve also spent the past decade taking Young Eagles into the wild blue yonder, as well as organizing events for all-girls schools and special needs students.
We want to give kids a hands-on introduction to aviation, especially if theyre had difficult childhoods, said Fadden, a Preston resident who designed cockpits with Morton, who hails from Whidbey Island. Its wonderful to watch the smiles spread on their faces when they realize they can do it. Aviation is alive and well, and with the developments and improvements in the capabilities of planes and the information from avionics, my goal is to see flying become as easy as driving a car. Were not there yet, but were getting there.
Aimee Autuna earned her Young Eagles certificate May 5 and couldnt speak highly enough about the experience.
Going above the mountains and through the clouds was the best part, said the 10-year-old Everett resident, who had never attended an Arlington Airport Appreciation Day before. It was like seeing heaven.
Autunas mother, Karla Toledo, admitted that Autunas excitement about the experience was infectious, while Jose Martinez, a friend of the family who attended with them, has been inspired to sign up for flight courses by the event.
Carnation pilot Mark Gordon, who took Autuna up for her first flight in a smaller aircraft, remains just as awestruck by aviation now as when he started flying 15 years ago.
Its an amazing privilege, when you think about it, said Gordon, who took his first Young Eagle on board only two years after he began piloting planes himself. Only 100 years ago, no matter how much money anyone had, none of them could do what anyone can do today. You see views that youd never get any other way. Whether these kids are animated or quiet, theyre soaking so much in. I might not hear about it from them during their flights, but when they draw pictures in school or tell their friends, Ill hear from their families afterwards.
Arlington resident Caryn Brown watched her seven-year-old daughter, Payton, take to the skies with James Nice in his Piper Cherokee.
Todays a beautiful day for it, said Brown, whose familys schedules had prevented them from attending previous Arlington Airport Appreciation Days. I thought Payton would be more excited about it if she was old enough to go up.
Its hard to describe the reasons why, Loos said, of his own love of flight. Its like looking at a painting and trying to describe what makes it a great work of art.
The Arlington Airports continued survival depends upon its relationship with the community, Angell said. With its unusual mix of aircraft, from ultra-lights and gliders to warbirds and homebuilt craft, there may not be another one like it anywhere.