Young Eagles spread their wings

This story appeared in the Antelope Valley Press March 23, 1997.

Valley Press Staff Writer

LANCASTER - Dozens of youngsters got their first small plane rides Saturday at Fox Field in Lancaster as volunteer pilots took to the skies to recruit the next generation of aviators.

Free plane rides through the Young Eagles program, sponsored by two local chapters of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), are offered about once a month, said coordinators George Heddy and Dave McAllister.

"We try to have 10 pilots and about 40 kids," Heddy said while on the ground between flights. They actually had 52 kids show up yesterday. All the pilots volunteer their time and cover their own costs for the effort. Their expenses are tax deductible.

"I loved it!" exclaimed Jessica Ricks, 16, of Upland. She has wanted to be a pilot since she was 6 years old, and it was her first ride in a small plane. She took a 20-minute tour of the sky in a Long EZ, one of the sleek "pushprop" aircraft designed by Burt Rutan of Mojave.

"We pulled basic maneuvers, like left, right and upside down," she said. "You could really feel the G force!"

Also taking his first ride in a small plane was Kevin Chenoweth, 7.

"My stomach really hurts," he said after slipping out of a Cessna 150. "We went side to side and up and down, and I got to help, but that up was a bit much. It was sorta like a really fast roller coaster."

Kevin's sister, Jessica, 12, also went for a ride in a plane Saturday. She was in a BD-4, an experimental home-built plane flown by Robert Hoey.

"It was fun," she said. "I really enjoyed it when I got to take the stick and make turns."

Participants received Eagle Flight certificates and Polaroid photographs of themselves in front of planes with their pilots.

The EAA hopes to give introductory flights to 1 million youngsters before December of 2003, the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers first flight at Kitty Hawk, and the 50th anniversary of the founding of EAA.

To participate, children must be between the ages of 8 and 17, and be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Groups from schools, scouting and other youth organizations are encouraged to attend.

The Young Eagles program, sponsored by local chapters of the Experimental Aircraft Association, is offered to kids between ages 8 and 17 monthly at Fox Field. For information on future flights and to sign up for free rides, contact George Heddy, 948-4431.

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