Wind is a common problem for pilots to deal with but that didn't stop Salt Lake City Chapter 23 of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) from giving kids free airplane rides at the Mesquite Airport during the Mesquite Days celebration. The day was sunny with winds gusting to 20-25 miles per hour but as excited as the kids were, the pilots could hardly say no.
The annual event invites children from ages 8-17 for a free flight to get them interested in aviation. The pilot explains the parts of the airplane, explains in-flight procedures and even lets some children handle the controls while flying over Mesquite. After the flight, each child gets a signed certificate making them an E.A.A. Young Eagle.
Also on hand for the event were two fire trucks from Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire Department and the staff and helicopter from Mercy Air. They were invited to participate and answer questions for those who had interests in careers in fire service, helicopters and aviation medicine.
“We expect to fly 45-50 children today,” said Mike Guardino of Salt Lake City, flight coordinator of the event. He explained that five planes were flown from Salt Lake for Mesquite Days. “The pilots enjoy doing it even though it is pretty expensive,” said Guardino. “Aviation fuel will average about $225 each way and a pilot will use about $100 worth of fuel for the day in Mesquite.” The price for a gallon of aviation fuel at
the Mesquite airport was $5.51 per gallon.
“It was really fun,” said 11 year old Mackenzie Bal who flew with her nine year old sister, Taylor Brewer. “We didn't get scared at all but sometimes we would hit a bump and it would really surprise us. I even got to touch the controls.”
Another little girl, obviously a little nervous, was being helped into enter the aircraft for her flight when she turned to the pilot and was overheard saying, “please don't fly too high, will you, please?” When she returned to the ground, she was all smiles telling everyone “she even saw her house.”
“We drove all the way here from Cedar City to go for a flight,” said ten year old Merica Stubbs. “It is so much fun, we come to Mesquite every year to do this.” Stubbs took a flight with her two brothers.
An added attraction were some radio controlled replicas of airplanes that were flown during a break in the free flights. It was a popular demonstration of how fast and maneuverable the small planes were. At the same time, Skydive Mesquite had a contingent of skydivers float over the airport and land near their hangar. The activities were coordinated by the airport manager, Larry LeMieux.
The E.A.A. Young Eagles program was launched in 1992 and has given over 1.6 million flights to children free of charge through the generosity of E.A.A. Pilots.
The event will be planned again for next year at the Mesquite airport. For information of arranging for a free flight for a child, visit www.youngeagles.org.