Free Flights Offered For Children Ages 8 To 17


When you were a kid, did you ever dream of flying? Maybe you just never had that opportunity. Well, on Saturday, here at Payson Municipal Airport, young people ages 8 to 17 can follow that dream.

With the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) # 810, Captain Steve Vaught and a group of volunteer pilots will give young people free airplane rides. First, register by having a parent or legal guardian sign a permission slip. Then, hear a brief pre-flight on the ground and explanation of how airplanes fly. Finally, the youngsters take to the skies around Payson to view the beauty of our community with an aerial view of the Tonto Natural Bridge.


Shanda Vaught took her first Young Eagles flight with her father, Steve Vaught, when she was 10 years old. Now, she is a pilot for Mesa Airlines.

EAA is an international aviation membership association founded in 1953 with headquarters in Oshkosh, Wis. EAA sponsors many aviation education programs, including the 15-year-old EAA Young Eagles flights. More than 1,307,000 children have flown for free with more than 40,000 pilots and supported by nearly that many ground volunteers during those years.

"Young Eagles gives kids a view of the world they've never seen before," said Harrison Ford, actor, pilot and Young Eagles Chairman. "Each Young Eagle flight is an opportunity to excite kids by sharing a passion for flight and to show them that they, too, can learn the skills to participate in aviation."

Steve Vaught, coordinator for our local EAA program said, "I started flying Young Eagles in 1993. I enjoy seeing the reaction of the kids on their first flight."

EAA Young Eagles airplane rides:Who: 8 to 17 years of ageWhen: 7 to 11 a.m. SaturdayWhere: Payson Municipal AirportCost: FreeParent or legal guardian must sign permission slip.

Vaught is a captain and check airman for Southwest Airlines in the Boeing 737. An Air Transport pilot (ATP), he achieved his certified instrument flight instructor ratings for both single (CFII) and multi engine (MEI) airplanes. If that is not enough, Vaught is a Designated Pilot Examiner for Private thru ATP ratings and an airplane/powerplant mechanic (A&P) and airplane inspector (IA).

"When I was 10 years old, I went up for my first flight and I was hooked," said Cpt. Vaught.

Steve's passion for flying inspired his daughter, Shanda Vaught. She had her first Young Eagles flight with her dad in 1994, when she was 10 years old. She flew solo on her 16th birthday. Steve taught her to fly and Shanda said, "My dad is the best instructor I ever had."

She is now a first officer pilot for Mesa Airlines and said, "Flying is a really fun job. It's always a nice day in the sky."

Kids throughout the United States have been given the gift of flight. The mission of the Young Eagles program is to simply give children this gift. No strings attached. Along the way, many have been inspired to become pilots, mechanics, designers and engineers.

The Payson EAA #810 chapter has flown over 800 children. What are the reactions of these youngsters who had their flight with the Young Eagles?

Destiny Wagenknect had a Young Eagles flight when she was just 8 years old, with her neighbor and a member EAA pilot, Tom Butler.

Destiny said, "I liked how it felt being in the air. When I was little, I would hold toy airplanes out the car window. I thought it would be fun to fly. It's better than driving."

She came to the Girl Scout Aviation Day at Payson Airport in April this year and joined the Civil Air Patrol Cadet program soon after. She is still excited about pursuing a career that includes aviation.

Who knows? Maybe she'll follow in the footsteps of the first female U.S. Air Force Thunderbird pilot, Major Nicole Malachowski.

Dustin Ammann's grandfather was a pilot in World War II. Both parents are pilots. He had a Young Eagles flight as a 9-year-old with Steve Vaught.

Now, 10 years later, he is working for Extension Software in Pine.

They are helping him get his private pilot's license and he hopes to fly one of the company planes.

When you ask the pilots why they volunteer to fly kids in the Young Eagles program, they will tell you, as Ron Ward did, "The kids are wide-eyed. It's like it's your first flight all over again."

That first Young Eagles flight may influence young people to continue their dream -- possibly a career in aviation.

After the youngsters have their flight, Dar's hot dogs, chips and soft drinks will be available at 11 a.m., courtesy of Vaught Aviation Services, Inc.

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