Look up in the sky – It’s a kid piloting a plane!

Hundreds of kids will be living a dream on June 8 when the Experimental Aircraft Association hosts its biannual Young Eagles Rally at Trenton Mercer Airport.

By Keith Loria, Special Writer
   Hundreds of kids will be living a dream on Saturday, June 8 when the Experimental Aircraft Association hosts its biannual Young Eagles Rally at Trenton Mercer Airport, inviting children ages 8 to 17 to take to the skies and try their hand at flying a plane.
   ”I want them to experience more than just a Disney ride. I want to introduce them to the basic principles of flight and get them interested in this,” says Lee Goldberg, the event coordinator. “This is a way to give a new generation a chance to learn more about the possibilities that exist in the world of aviation.”
   The idea was hatched by the EAA in 1992 as a way to get youngsters interested in flying, and Mr. Goldberg has been taking those in our area up in the skies for the past 20 years, as part of EAA’s Chapter No. 176. He estimates that more than 2,500 local kids have flown thanks to the program, and nearly 2 million nationwide have.
   ”Their original goal was to take a million kids on their first airplane ride before the anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first flight in 2003, which they did,” he says. “The program was so successful, they have continued it ever since.”
   Mike Friedman, a pilot and event coordinator, says that all children will be matched with a trained volunteer pilot and when conditions permit, will be given the opportunity to take to the controls of the airplane, under close supervision of the pilot.
   ”The experience varies for each kid,” Mr. Friedman says. “I take one kid up at a time and try to give them a real personalized experience. Some are interested in the beauty and scenery, others have a real intense technical interest, and I indulge them either way.”
   The flights average around 20 minutes. The pilots encourage the students to ask questions and hope to pique their interest in planes.
   ”The kids have a great time. I have some kids go up and don’t say a word the entire flight, but when they come down, they are grinning from ear to ear and can’t stop talking about it,” Mr. Friedman says. “Some are really adventurous — especially the girls.”
   In addition to the flights, the day will be filled with family activities. Young Eagles participants can participate in a short, lively “mini-ground school” where they will learn the science behind how airplanes work, and people of ages can view a historic aircraft.
   There’s a flight simulator for the little ones (under 100 pounds), that lets them feel as if they are in the cockpit of a fighter plane, complete with a water gun attached. There’s also multi-media displays and other exciting activities.
   Following each flight, the youngster will be issued an official Young Eagle certificate, and their name will be entered into the “World’s Largest Logbook,” which is on permanent display at the EAA Air Adventure Museum in Oshkosh, Wis., and online at www.youngeagles.org
   ”The activities at our events are designed to stimulate kids’ interest in aviation and provide opportunities to become involved in the world of aviation,” Mr. Freidman says. “Our mini-ground school, flight simulator, and introductory flights are designed to show them how they can make flying a part of their life or their career.”
EAA Chapter 176’s Young Eagles flight rally will be held on Sunday, June 8, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Trenton-Mercer Airport’s Ronson Aviation facility, 18 W Piper Ave., Trenton. Registration for flights closes at 3:30 p.m.