CONWAY — In an effort to increase interest in aviation, Eastern Slope Regional Airport will hold its first Young Eagles Rally this Saturday from noon-4 p.m., offering free plane rides to kids age 8-17.
Ed Bergeron, secretary of the Eastern Slope Regional Airport Authority, said children will be given 15-minute flights and also receive a one-year free membership to the Young Eagles EAA chapter along with their own logbook.
Membership includes free access to Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course ($199 value); free admission to more than 300 science and technology museums; free Academy of Model Aeronautics Student Membership; free electronic copy of EAA Sport Aviation; free flight lesson ($130 value); reimbursement after passing the FAA knowledge exam ($165 value); and access to valuable flight training awards, education scholarships and Air Academy camperships.
“We want to spark local interest,” he said. “I think it’s great first step for anyone interested in aviation.”
The Young Eagle was launched in 1992 and through the Experimental Aircraft Association has dedicated more than 25 years to giving youth ages 8-17 their first free ride in an airplane.
"Today, more than 2 million young people have enjoyed a free introductory flight through the Young Eagles program. These flights are made possible through the generosity of EAA member volunteers,” the EAA website said.
The EAA, or Experimental Aircraft Association, was founded in 1953, according to its website, “by a group of individuals in Milwaukee, Wis., who were interested in building their own airplanes. EAA expanded its mission of growing participation in aviation to include antiques, classics, warbirds, aerobatic aircraft, ultralights, helicopters, and contemporary manufactured aircraft."
Bergeron and colleagues at the airport have become leaders in bringing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to the runway.
Last summer, 14 seventh- and eighth-graders took part in a five-day Aviation Camp offered by the Mt. Washington Valley School to Career Summer Camps for middle-school-age kids (ages 13 and 14).
The aviation camp, which ran July 16-20, was based out of Eastern Slope Regional Airport in Fryeburg. Bergeron said that on Monday, campers learned about the basics of flight, such as how wings provide lift, and about mapping.
The campers got to try out a flight simulator in Sanford, Maine; build some gliders and to fly them over by the Saco District Ranger Station; and visit the Portsmouth International Airport at Pease, where the National Guard gave them a tour of their operations and showed them the inside of a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker plane. They also went up in the control tower.
The young aviators were also taken for half-hour airplane rides in small propellor planes over Conway and Fryeburg, Maine. And not only did the campers get to sit in the plane, they also got to handle the controls. Camp Program Director Joe Riddensdale said during their flights, the campers flew over Kearsarge, Cathedral Ledge and Kennett Middle School.
"I think everybody was happy with how the camp went,” Bergeron said.
The camp came about through a partnership between Kiwanis Club, HEB Engineers, Dearborn Foundation, Eastern Slope Regional Airport and the Veterans of Wars, the American Legion, among other contributers.
Riddensdale said it was obvious the kids and instructors had a great time, saying, "I seriously think we have some future pilots."
Virginia Schrader, director of the MWV Career and Technical Center, said the first-time offering of a STEM aviation camp was such a hit that it’s led to other opportunities.
“In the spring, the adult education and the Eagle Academy and the MWV Career and Technical Center are all going to partner together to offer ground school so that students can get their pilot’s licenses. They’ll do ground school and actual flying (at the Eastern Slope Regional Airport in Fryeburg, Maine), and we have sponsors lined up for this," she said. "We already have an instructor. The STEM aviation initiative is really taking off, no pun intended."
The rain date for the Young Eagles Rally is Sunday, Nov. 11, also from noon-4 p.m.
Anyone with questions can contact Bergeron at Ed_Bergeron@yahoo.com.