The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) held a Young Eagles event Saturday where children could learn about aviation and even experience flight from the pilot’s seat themselves.
During the event, young participants had the chance to put an aircraft together, to use a flight simulator, and to fly a small plane with the aid of certified pilots.
Ken Mortensen of the EAA said the aircraft participants worked on Saturday was the third the group had built with the aid of Young Eagles participants.
He said he enjoyed coming out and working with his hands and spending time with the children.
Mortensen loves “seeing their eyes light up when they figure out how something works,” he said. “We’ve had kids that didn’t know what a phillips head screw was or how they work. Seeing them get the idea and then when you go flying with them just seeing the look of awe and amazement when they go flying. I guess that’s it.”
It’s a fun way to spend a Saturday morning, but to Mortensen, it’s more than that.
“It’s all very educational,” he said. “Youth aviation education — that’s why we have our 501-C3. It’s about educating.”
Mortensen feels this is a way to educate the next generation of pilots and good career preparation in any case.
“There’s going to be a huge shortage of pilots coming up in the next few years because of mandatory retirements,” he said. “And there’s more than just flying. There’s a whole trade industry of working on airplanes, doing the nuts and bolts.”
The events take place the second Saturday of each month at Freeman Field Airport and is free to any children who would like to participate, Mortensen said. The events are funded by grants and the Kansas Aviation Expo, he said and draw anywhere from four to 12 participants each month.
Anna Morgan, age 10, who took part in Saturday’s event is a veteran of the Young Eagles program. Her dad, Nico Woode, is an EAA member who has brought her to the events before. She took the controls of an airplane with her dad’s help for the first time as an 8-year-old. Morgan said she enjoyed the view from above, that she had always enjoyed flying.
She also enjoys building the plane, working with the rivets and drills, she said.
“I think that other kids should take part in the program because it’s really fun and you get to learn how to build a plane and you might need those skills in the future,” she said.
One of Saturday’s participants, 12-year-old Alayzah Shifflett, said it was her first time at a Young Eagles event. She said her mother forced her to get up early for the event, but once she arrived at the airport she was glad she had attended.
She said she was looking forward to learning how to fly a plane “in case of any emergencies.”
“If a pilot goes down, I’ll know how to fly the plane,” Shifflett said.
She said she enjoyed the task of riveting the plane together and was looking forward to actually taking flight. Shifflett said she was not nervous at all. The thought of being taken up in the air by an experienced pilot and then allowed to take the controls for a while once they were in the air made her “joyful,” not scared.
“I’m very excited for that,” Shifflett said.