Young Eagles to Soar Above Moore Saturday
BY FLORENCE GILKESON
Young Eagles won't be piloting the aircraft, but hundreds of prospective young pilots will be circling the skies above Moore County Saturday - with licensed pilots at the controls.
Once again, local pilots will provide a full day of free aerial tours to young people from the Moore County Airport, under sponsorship of the local Experimental Aircraft Asso-ciation chapter (EAA).
"We typically get 100 kids per event, but every year it gets bigger," said Jim Murray, Young Eagles project coordinator. "A year ago, we flew 181 kids in one day. This time we're shooting to fly at least 200 kids in a single day. If we can do it, it will be a huge success and shows the interest young people have for the adventure of flying."
In fact, the local chapter may well be breaking records, according to pilot Mike Jones.
The latest report from the EAA shows that since the local program was initiated, probably in the late 1990s, the chapter has made 2,957 flights from the Moore County Airport.
The Young Eagles Fly-In will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 3 p.m. at the Moore County Airport and is open to ages 8-17 years. Reservations are not required, but service will be on a first-come, first-served basis. However, if a large group, such as a church group or Boy Scout troop, plans to attend, the EAA advises a call in advance to Murray.
The chapter sponsors a Young Eagle event twice a year at the local airport and smaller events in other counties at other times in the year. For many of the youngsters, it is their first airplane ride.
"Flying is a wonderful sport and possibly a gateway to a great career," said Roland Gilliam, chapter president.
Gilliam said the goal is to introduce young people "to the fun and excitement of flying, and perhaps get them involved in a great career in aviation, engineering, meteorology, or some other aspect of the aerospace industry."
Because of the size of the Moore County event, other community organizations provide support.
Pinecrest High School Junior Air Force ROTC cadets staff the welcome desk and handle the paperwork that matches passengers to pilots. The Airport Authority contributes fuel, and Boy Scout Troop 810 provides burgers and hot dogs for lunch. All of the pilots are volunteers and donate their time and their aircraft just for the love of flying.
"The flying is exhilarating," said Ed Watters, one of the volunteer pilots. "Once the kids are on the plane, I try to explain some details of flying, do some sightseeing and make a perfect landing. It's always exciting with the kids on board."
Watters flies a shiny Piper four-seat airplane.
"The kids are the best part of the day," agreed Murray, who flies a rugged Maule airplane. "They all comment on the swimming pools they see, and the size of the forests that surround Moore County."
The most popular sight-seeing spots are Pinecrest High School, Walmart and McDonald's.
"There's something about spotting the red roof on the Pizza Hut that gets everybody excited," Murray said.
The latest report from the EAA includes a list of volunteer pilots, including several who have provided the most significant service.
At the top of the list is Barbara Harris-Para, of Whispering Pines, who has made a whopping 340 flights. Also on the list are: Mike Jones, of Southern Pines, 290 flights; Richard Rigsby, of Salisbury, 133; Chuck Peterson, 179, and Ed Watters, 152, both of Pinehurst; Murray, of Lakeview, 299; US Airways Capt. Jim Zazas, 228, Gilliam, 115, and Bob Preddy, 56, all of Carthage; and Don Bennett of Cameron, 264.
"While everybody has worked hard and contributed greatly to this effort, it's particularly noteworthy to see folks like Jim Murray and Bob Preddy, who fly two-seat airplanes. That's a lot of take-offs and landings when you're doing them one kid at a time," Mike Jones said.
The EAA sponsors the overall Young Eagles program and operates the EAA Air Academy in Oshkosh, Wis., every summer. If a local chapter flies as many as 500 youngsters during a year, two local students may be sent free of charge to the Air Academy for a week on an EAA scholarship.
"My week in Oshkosh has been one of the best experiences I've ever had," said Alexis Cooper, a Pinecrest High student who attended the academy this past summer. "I met over 50 other teens from all over the world who love aviation as much as I do. I've built friendships that I know will last a lifetime."
"I really appreciated the credits the chapter donated to send me to Oshkosh," said Dakota Morris, of West Montgomery High School and an EAA Academy graduate. "It was a great opportunity to experience different cultures and learn about aviation."
The EAA was founded in 1953 in Milwaukee, and the initial focus was on home-built airplanes. The organization later expanded to include antiques, classics, warbirds, aerobatic aircraft, ultralights, helicopters and contemporary manufactured aircraft. The Young Eagles program was launched in 1992.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at email@example.com.
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