Early Saturday morning, the cars began arriving at Payson Municipal Airport and children ran down the stairs for their free Young Eagles airplane rides.
Eight pilot volunteers waited in their planes -- Steve Vaught, Jon Barber, Jim Garner, Robert Henley, Bob Seiler, Don Cryer, Byron McKeon and Mike Clearman. Eighty-one children flew that day.
Late in the morning, when the wind picked up, coordinator Steve Vaught made the safety decision to stop the flights. Late arrivals were told to fill out Young Eagles forms and a pilot would contact them later for their flights. On Sunday, Bob Cryer and Rich Henry flew six more children, for a total of 87.
Pilot Bill Day walked the children around his plane and taught them about how pilots check an airplane before they fly.
Once each child completed their "pre-flight," Brenda Day gave out blue Young Eagles wristbands and said, "Now, you are ready for your flight."
Becky Vaught, who coordinated the ground support operations, had a smooth running group. The volunteers are always conscious of safety at the airport and Coyla McKean and Charlie Todd escorted the children to and from Bill's display plane.
The youth were fascinated when Coyla told them, "Some planes are made in a factory and others, called experimental, are built by the pilots themselves."
Most kids waited patiently. Others jumped up and down asking, "Which airplane is mine?"
A ground safety support volunteer was assigned to each airplane. Beth Meyers, Kim Chittock, Ann Henley and the author, Marie Fasano, shuttled children to and from the planes.
For each flight, pilots and the ground volunteers helped the children into the planes.
Once his passengers were secure, the pilot got back into the plane and announced, "Everyone ready? Here we go."
The flight took the young people over the Tonto Natural Bridge and around the town of Payson. After the flight, the pilot shut off the engine, got out of the plane as the ground volunteers rushed over with a Young Eagles certificate in hand and helped each child out the door.
Proudly displaying their certificate, the youngsters stood in front of the airplane with their pilot. Photographer Mike Chittock made certain each child had a Polaroid photo souvenir to take home.
Keeping records of the Young Eagles flight is important and Becky's ground support volunteers Pat Clearman, Charlotte Garner and Debra Barber were writing and typing feverishly. Mac McCabe, Paul Pitkin and Earl Huffmaster rounded out the volunteers with setting up, cleaning up or helping wherever they were needed.
Dar's hot dogs were the final treat. The helicopter firefighting crews on the airport came by to see the action and shared hot dogs and drinks with the children and volunteers.
Now, the children are entered into the Young Eagles world's largest logbook at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) headquarters in Oskosh, Wisc. In a few weeks, each child will see his or her name in the logbook, along with more than a million others.
As reported on the EAA Web site (www.youngeagles.com), Bruce McCandless, who flew on two shuttle missions, said, "When you give a child an experience, I think you're arming their imagination."