Dreams of flight have been around ever since the ancient Greeks and winged god Hermes, to when the Wright Brothers actually achieved powered flight in their airplane in 1903, to the latest space travel dreams today.
Young Eagles and local EAA Chapter 1658 are helping foster those dreams by offering free airplane rides for young people ages 8-17. A Young Eagles event is scheduled this Saturday, July 17, 8-11 a.m., at Glencoe Municipal Airport, and two other dates later this summer, Aug. 21 and Sept. 4. The September date also marks the chapter’s annual fly-in involving other visiting pilots and a sweet corn feed.
The Young Eagles events are for youngsters to get a feel for aviation and to learn about airplanes and how they work, according to program coordinator Wade Scott, who is also a scout leader.
EAA stands for Experimental Aircraft Association. The local chapter has been around since 2000. It started as a group of area ultralight plane flying enthusiasts, but has since expanded to other civilian aircraft to promote, encourage, and enhance the safe use of all types of aircraft.
The local chapter is part of the parent organization out of Oshkosh, Wisc., which boasts one of the nation’s largest fly-ins and air shows each year. A few members are professional pilots, but most are hobbyists piloted by the love of flying. Chapter 1658 has about 40 members, including pilots from Glencoe, Waconia, Minnetrista and beyond.
“Ever since I was little, I always wanted to fly,” said Stuart Selchow, now a veteran pilot who has flown more than 300 kids on Young Eagles flights. Mike Gavin is another area pilot who has reached the 300-mark. In total, chapter pilots have flown more than 1,500 young people in the many years they have been offering free flights.
The kids who climb aboard might find it’s better than any ride at ValleyFair – certainly higher. They might even get a chance to grab the joy stick and guide the plane for a bit to get a feel for how it operates.
But no climbs, turns or barrel rolls, only straight-line flying.
Safety is foremost in flying, Selchow notes, and all pilots have gone through several hours of certification training and testing.
The aviation industry needs all facets of personnel – pilots, mechanics, aeronautical engineers, air traffic controllers and ground crews, Wade notes, and a few Young Eagles have made it into a career. But most are content with a flight or may pursue flying as a hobby.
While it makes chapter members pleased to see a young person pursue an aviation career, Selchow said he and other pilots get the greatest joy in sharing their joy of flying with young people.
The chapter typically has 3-4 planes and pilots lined up for Young Eagles flight days, also 10-15 other EAA volunteers to help with registration, as safety escorts and to hand out photos and flight certificates to the aspiring pilots.
“The kids are usually a little quiet to begin with, but you can see the excitement grow as we fly,” Selchow said.
For those who are a little afraid of flying or want more practice, there will also be a trailer-mounted simulator on the ground this Saturday.