Parents and their children
began arriving at 9:30 a.m. for the 10 a.m. official start of the
event. The pilots and planes were ready and lined up on the ramp.
Seven pilots volunteered to fly the kids in their private aircraft.
A steady stream of families came to the airport until the closing
time of 3 p.m. After the last kid left with a Young Eagles
certificate, the count stood at 111 new flying enthusiasts.
The beaming children and their
happy parents were the reward for the pilot volunteers and the
ground support people. On the ground, members of HIF and Chapter 129
greeted the families and signed them in for their flights. They
helped round up the future aviators, briefed them about their
flight, secured them into the planes before the ride and helped them
out of the airplanes after landing. Participants received a
beautiful EAA Young Eagles certificate with their name printed on
Smiles were the currency of the
day. Parents took photos of their children and their pilot with the
airplane after each flight. The parents probably wished that they
could have gone along, but it was a day for the youngsters.
One special incident put the
whole day in perspective. A little girl was just not sure she wanted
to go with her brother and sister in that airplane. She was clinging
to her mother's leg and sniffling a bit. Pilot Lowell Hoffman leaned
over and said "You know, I'm a granddad. Would you like to go for a
ride with a granddad? I'll hold your hand out to the plane." Well,
that seemed to reassure her a bit, and off they went! When the plane
landed, she jumped out with the biggest smile on her face and raced
to tell her parents how much fun it was! When she left the airport
she was clutching her Young Eagles certificate to her as if it was
her most prized possession.
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There were too many volunteers
to mention, but one who stands out is Al LaRochelle, the godfather
of central Illinois Young Eagles. He has been doing this since the
program's inception. From the first flight of the day to his last,
he would greet each group of young flyers with a booming, "Who wants
to go for and airplane ride?" And the kids would all yell back, "We
do!" After the flight he said "Congratulations, you're all Young
Eagles now!" That always produced grins from his passengers!
LaRochelle's energy and
enthusiasm set the tone for the day! Special thanks goes to Bob
Tarbox and Lisa Visel for manning the computer. Jan Betzelberger,
Mary Ellen Martin and Joanne Marlin checked the kids in with their
parents. Jan's husband, Ron, and Mary Ellen's husband, Richard, were
two of the pilots for the day. HIF president Tom Wachtel also flew
the youngsters. Art Williams and Jack Burke served double duty by
helping load the aircraft and also cooking lunch for all of the
volunteers from Chapter 129 and HIF.
While the young aviators were
taking off on their adventure, HIF members Milt Underkoffler and
Ryan Wells led tours of the HIF museum and the static aircraft
display area for the parents.
goal of the Experimental Aircraft Association is to give 1 million
children their first airplane ride before Dec. 17. The count is over
965,000. The goal of the EAA Chapter 129 is to give 300 kids their
first airplane ride in 2003. The goal of Heritage-in-Flight is to
bring the EAA's exuberance for aviation to the Logan County Airport.
Saturday, Aug. 23, went a long way toward achieving all of these