IOWA CITY — Cruising high in the sky at 120 mph, siblings Callista and Sebastian Robertson on Saturday got their first look at Iowa City and the surrounding area from above.
It was a day of firsts for Callista, 12, and Sebastian, 9, who earned their wings by taking their first airplane ride through a program sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association called Young Eagles.
More than 30 youngsters, ages 8 to 17, turned out from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday to the Iowa City Municipal Airport, where members from EAA Chapter 33 offered free plane rides as part of a mission to spark a sense of wonderment in kids about flying.
“It’s almost like a private flight,” said Callista. “I wanted the opportunity to be able to fly since I haven’t before. I wanted to fly here, because I recognize the landscape.”
Eight pilots with eight planes — including a Stinson Voyager and a Cessna 182 — took kids up for the 15- to 20-minute flights. Upon landing, each child received a “Young Eagle” certificate and had their names entered into a logbook that is on display at the EAA Air Adventure Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Founded in 1992 by the EAA, nearly 2 million kids have taken an airplane ride thanks to the Young Eagles program.
Elena Dreyer, 16, of Iowa City, said she can’t get enough of the program. She has participated in Young Eagles the last six years because “It’s a whole new experience every time.”
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“I really like seeing things from the air,” Elena said. “It’s just a wonderful thing to see.”
Because the goal of Young Eagles is to spark an interest in aviation, pilots also take time to put participants through a “mini ground school,” said Connie White, coordinator of the program. Kids learn about parts of the airplane and how it operates, among other things. The lessons continue once the planes are in flight.
Keith Williams, a flight instructor at Iowa Flight Training, all of the pilots volunteer their time and even pay for the gas.
“In return, they get to fly and get to see the smiles on the kids’ faces,” he said.
The next Young Eagles aviation program takes place from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 6, at the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids. Those interested in participating can register on site. A parent or guardian must be present and sign a release form.