FORT MOHAVE — More than 80 youths went on free airplane rides Saturday at the Sun Valley Airport in Fort Mohave.
Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1558 hosted this year’s Young Eagle Flights, which took up the largest number of passengers since the chapter started the local event in 2014.
“The amount of interest in our event this year is exciting,” said Jeri Gatewood, president of the local EAA chapter. Young Eagles events over the years have allowed about 150 youths ages 8-17 to go on short flights, excluding this weekend’s open house.
This was the first-ever flight for many of the children who came to the airport with their families. Their parents or guardians were required to provide consent for their children to become Young Eagles and soar through the air — without them and, frequently, for the first time.
Before they went up, they received a pancake breakfast, courtesy of the Civil Air Patrol, then some instruction about flying. This included making small airplanes from drinking straws, paper strips and tape.
Sending their toy planes through the air helped the youths pass the time because the wait to fly in a real plane was longer than anticipated for some because of an unusually high number of sign-ups.
A group of three girls came out of the small aircraft in which they had spent about 15 minutes being flown around.
“I liked it,” said Callie Perkins, 10. She shared the experience with Nevan Schoemaker, 12, and Carmelita Dock, 11. The other two girls felt the same way about the flight.
Carmelita’s mother, Kara Dock-Perez, said her daughter was scared beforehand but ultimately enjoyed her time in the air. Her father, Victor Perez, said he was happy to see his daughter do something he hadn’t yet done — go on a plane ride.
A line-up of local aircraft, aviation exhibitors and plenty of take-offs and landings to watch also helped those who didn’t arrive early enough to sign up remain occupied.
Flights took over near the area where other open house activities were held. Mobile phones were used not only to document time inside a parked helicopter, but allowed people young and old to capture departures and landings on video.
Gatewood said the volunteer pilots would keep providing the flights until all of the children were able to go up Saturday.
“This is my first time doing this,” said Alyssa Laing, 10, of Bullhead City. “I’m kinda scared because it’s fast. I like things that go fast, but not that fast.”
Her friend, Marilyn Harrison, 11, of Fort Mohave, was a little apprehensive about how high in the air they would fly.
“I like helicopters and airplanes, but I’m a little scared too,” Harrison said. “It’s the going up I don’t like.”
And Alex Bastyer, 8, of Bullhead City, said planes are loud. He prefers spending time using his tablet.
“But I expect to go up anyway,” he said.
They still had some waiting time but were excited when it was finally their turn to go for a ride.
Laing was seen excitedly running toward the area where Civil Air Patrol cadets escorted the flyers to their waiting planes. Bastyer started to run, too.
Harrison wasn’t running, but she still smiled as she made her way to begin her short adventure in the sky.
Marilynn Hamiel, deputy commander of the cadets group, said many of the young people in the volunteer group still awaited the chance to go on their first flights as well.
The local CAP Cadets program began in 2012. Several youths who have completed stints as cadets have gone on to serve in the military and take on aviation roles there, she said.