Feeling What It Is To Fly, If Just For A Moment

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The small cockpits of the planes flying over town on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 7, will carry the pilot and his very special passenger, a child, known as a "young eagle."

"It was my first time ever in a plane," said 11-year-old Warner Lann who was one of the participants last year.

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Young Eagle program coordinator Steve Vaught will be among the volunteer pilots taking children into the air to discover the adventure of flying next weekend. The Young Eagle Rally will be held 7 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Oct. 7, at the Payson Airport. Call (928) 274-1750 for more information.

"I was nervous at first. My head felt weird. My ears popped, then we were high in the air and I could see the whole town."

But the biggest thrill was yet to come.

The pilot let go of the stick, so Lann could steer the plane, just for a moment. He felt what it was like to turn the plane, to fly, and then the pilot took back the controls.

Allowing a child take the controls for a moment is a safe part of the experience, because the plane is high in the sky and the pilot is right there, said Steve Vaught, Young Eagle program coordinator, Southwest Airlines pilot and flight instructor.

Back on the ground he advises his friends if they want to take a flight, "It's free. It's scary and you should sign up because it's fun."

Young Eagle flights last around 15 minutes and are open to children ages 8 to 17 on a first come, first served basis.

Parents or guardians must complete a registration and release form. The demonstration flight takes place in FAA registered planes flown by licensed pilots.

Before and during the flight, the pilot tells the child about the airplane, reviews aeronautical charts and answers questions.

Upon landing, the passengers are given certificates registering them as Young Eagles and later their names will be entered in the world's largest flight logbook on display at the EAA Air Adventure Museum in Wisconsin. Children will also be able to see their name in the online logbook at www.youngeagles.org.

"It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and opportunity," said Sierra Sommers, who enjoyed a flight three years ago when she was 16 years old.

She also took the stick and admits she felt "a little queasy" when she pulled the stick and the plane soared upward a bit too fast.

"We flew over Pine and I think I found my house," she said. "I know I saw the school because of the blue roof."

She enjoyed the "rush" so much she looked into making a career as a commercial pilot. Although she is studying at Arizona State University to become a middle school math teacher, she said, she looks forward to the day when she can get her private pilot's license.

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is an international aviation organization founded in 1953.

EAA founded Young Eagles in 1992 with a goal of flying more than one million children in time for the 100th anniversary of flight on Dec. 13, 2003. They achieved that goal nearly a month early.

Since June 1993, 25 pilots of EAA Chapter 810 in Payson have flown over 700 young people from the Rim Country, Vaught said. "We give flights all year long. Contact us and we will do our best to accommodate you."

Vaught can be reached by calling (928) 274-1750.

The Young Eagle Rally is from 7 a.m. to noon, Oct. 7, at the Payson Airport.

Parents may sign their children up for flights on a first come, first served basis. Six or seven Young Eagle pilots will be at the event and Vaught estimated 80 or so children would be able to take an airplane ride.

-- To reach Carol La Valley call 474-5251 ext. 122 or e-mail clavalley@payson.com

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