Young Eagles soar with the pros in Sugar Grove
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Amid a flurry of air traffic controller lingo and runway designations, a 10-year-old voice came through the headphones in a 1973 twin-engine Cessna P-337 traveling 120 mph about 1,500 feet above Sugar Grove.
"Jet, can you see this? Look down! It's awesome!"
Declan Loomis, 10, from Tucson, Ariz., could barely contain his excitement over riding in an airplane. Jet, his 8-year-old brother, shared his enthusiasm.
"Cool!" he replied over the headset.
Throughout most of the 20-minute flight over Sugar Grove, Yorkville and Plano, Declan was fixated on the plane's instrument panel, manned by pilot Mark Hislop, while Jet took in the sights on the ground.
"I like how airplanes work, the dials, gauges and controls," Declan said. "Im interested in all that."
The Loomis brothers were among about 70 children ages 8 to 17 who got free small-plane rides at during the Young Eagles Rally event organized by the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 579, based in Aurora.
Several of the chapter's pilots volunteered their time, planes and fuel to introduce children to the different aspects of aviation, said chapter President Dave Smith.
"We do this once a month for our kids, just to give them a taste of the world up there," Smith said. "And we have a heck of a good time doing it."
Hislop, a veteran pilot from Montgomery estimated he's given rides to more than 1,500 children since he began in flying in 1996. Overall, the EAA has done that for about 1.7 million kids since the program began in 1992.
"I learned about the program in 1996 and I've been flying kids ever since. The kids have so much fun, it's hard not to come out," Hislop said. "Plus, it's the only time my wife doesn't give me grief about my flying. I just tell her it's for the kids, so it's OK."
Rrzezarita Benushi, 15, of Hawthorn Woods used the experience to take her first airplane ride. She's not sure if there will be any future trips.
"I was scared and the air was a little bumpy, but I did it," she said. "But I don't know if I'll be doing it again."
Dhati Ash, 11, of Chicago took his fourth Young Eagle ride Sunday morning.
"I want to be a cargo pilot one day and fly people's stuff to them, so I ride in airplanes whenever I can," he said. "I can't describe it but I like the way flying feels on my body so I want to do it all the time."
Also present at Sunday's Young Eagle Rally was 21-year-old pilot intern Ryan Todd, who began flying at the age of 16. A student at Eastern Michigan University, where he studies Aviation Flight Technology, Todd is interning for Cessna and promoting the Discover Flying Challenge.
As part of the program, he has his own 2013 Cessna 172 Skyhawk to fly around all summer to promote flight training and raise awareness for the Special Olympics, United Way, Veterans Airlift Command, American Red Cross and the EAA Young Eagles. Cessna rules only allow him to give rides to passengers over the age of 18, but dozens of children and adults were in and out of his plane all day, checking out the latest technology.
"I show the kids how the new airplanes have come a long way so flying them now is just like a computer game, so they can have fun with it," Todd said. "I'm just trying to relate to the kids so they have fun with their experience here today and hope to spark that interest that I had when I started."
This year's remaining rally dates are Aug. 25, Sept. 22, and Oct. 27.
All children must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian in order to sign in. No reservations are needed.
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