ARLINGTON — The Arlington Airport Appreciation Day drew crowds and flew planes in spite of lingering cloud cover Aug. 27, nurturing an interest in flight in children and young adults.
While 2-year-old Preston Heaviland of Shoreline was piloting a flight simulator, his 8-year-old brother James was testing out the controls of Keith McLean’s 1940 Piper J-3 Cub.
“It’s the plane that taught America to fly,” said McLean, who’s only taken part in Young Eagles flights for the past few months, but has been flying for 20 years. “I was seven years old when a fighter plane went over our home, and I swore I’d fly myself. It took me a long time, but I got there,” he laughed.
“This has been a dream come true for the boys,” said Jessie Heaviland, their mother. “They like anything that moves, but they’re especially fascinated to see planes up in the sky. They’ve never gotten to experience them this close before, though.”
Although James’ interests change frequently, Jessie reported that he recently expressed the desire to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps as a Navy pilot. After his fledgling flight, James had few words to offer, but enthusiastically repeated how much fun it was to be up in the air.
“I told him he could take the controls,” McLean said. “Of course, I was right there with him, to make sure it went okay. He was a little intimidated, I think, but that’s only natural. It’s a good learning experience regardless.”
Although Marysville’s Carter Hardeland, 9, and Arlington’s Hunter Robinson, 8, didn’t get to try their hands at piloting Dave Cort’s Beechcraft A36 Bonanza, they still gushed over being able to fly in it, as did their parents.
“Hunter has wanted to fly since he was young,” said his mom, Katie Robinson, a teacher who appreciates the Airport Appreciation Day, in turn, for providing kids the opportunity for hands-on experiences with small planes. “He wanted to do barrel rolls in the air,” she laughed.
“Heck, I’m thirty years old, and I’ve never been in some of these planes before,” said Cory Hardeland, dad to Carter.
Both sets of parents agreed that this event deserves to be more broadly promoted, through social media online and community locations such as the library.
Cort hopes the Airport Appreciation Day will breed the next generation of pilots, plane mechanics, and other aviation professionals and enthusiasts. Since obtaining his own pilot’s license at 17, the Arlington native has spent the past 39 years flying.
“If I can fly a hundred kids and influence just one of them, I’ll consider that a success,” said Cort, who’s taken part in the Young Eagles program for the past four years. “Aviation has been very good to me, so I want to give back. The pilot population has been declining a bit. It’s aging. A lot of us have been retiring. Some of us … well, we’ve been permanently retiring. We need that influx of youth.”
Airport director David Ryan praised pilots such as Cort and McLean for being “so generous” with their time.
“If there’d been something like this event when I was a kid, I would have been hooked on flying right away,” Ryan said.
Koal Greenwood, a cadet airman with the Arlington Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, is so hooked that he’s come all the way from Lake Stevens every Thursday, for the past five months, to meet at the Marysville Armed Forces Reserve Center from 6-8:30 p.m.
“I was looking to get more flight time, but along the way, I got to meet great new people,” said Greenwood, now 15 years old, who plans to join the Air Force after high school. “If you join the Civil Air Patrol, expect to have fun.”
Those who are interested in the Civil Air Patrol, which volunteered half a dozen cadets for the Airport Appreciation Day, should contact Maj. Mike Talley at 425-359-0133.