By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Bob Snider was about 3 years old when he first climbed into a Piper J3 Cub and took to the skies.
“I’ve been around airports all my life,” said Snider. The pilot and instructor now has 40 years of flight experience under his belt. He’s enthusiastic about introducing kids to the world of aviation.
On Saturday, May 11, he and other local pilots will be doing just that via the Young Eagles Flight Rally.
That day, kids 8 through 17 have the opportunity to take a free, short flight, talk to pilots and learn about airplanes. The free event is hosted by the Anderson-Muncie chapter 226 of the Experimental Aircraft Association.
“It’s a great opportunity to showcase aviation to the community and to the kids to consider aviation for their future careers,” said John Coon, Anderson’s airport manager.
Also that morning, the public is invited to get in on the EAA’s Sausage and Pancake Breakfast, served in one of the airport hangars from 7 to 11 a.m. For $5 per person, there’s sausage and all-you-can-eat pancakes plus a beverage.
“It’s a great way to start your day, then stick around and fly with Young Eagles,” said Snider.
Snider said that 104 young people flew 800 feet above the Anderson area last fall during a similar rally. Almost a dozen pilots flew nine different aircraft, donating their time and expenses to make it possible for the kids.
“It is meant to encourage them, maybe at some time spark an interest … and not to be afraid of flying,” said Snider. It’s fun, but Snider also noted, “It’s an educational trip.”
Rachel Merritt of Markleville, now 18, took her first flight earlier this year at Anderson Municipal Airport with Snider.
“I really liked it,” said Merritt. “It’s really cool seeing everything from the sky. ... I learned about how they take off and land.” She said the idea of being a flight attendant also crossed her mind.
Inside the cockpit, kids like checking out all the instruments such as the altimeter and airspeed indicator.
“They’re impressed we’re doing over a hundred miles an hour,” said Snider. All those numbers registering in displays across the instrument panel also impress kids with the relevance of a little subject called “math.”
The short flights last about a half-hour from the time the kids climb in and get buckled up to disembarking on the ramp. In planes that accommodate four people, three kids go together at a time. Snider said that planes in the rally may be four-seaters, two-seaters, open cockpit or even antique.
Parents remain on earth while their children fly, although interested adults can always take a short intro flight for $20 through AndAir, which offers instruction at the airport.
When all is said and done, the new Young Eagles each receive a certificate. Older kids, 14 to 17, also get a logbook and a coupon for an online flight training course. Either way, the flights bring out the smiles.
“It’s exciting just to see the expressions on their faces,” said Coon.
Interested kids can be preregistered for Young Eagles flights at the Anderson Municipal Airport Terminal prior to Saturday. Repeat Young Eagles are welcome. On May 11, registration starts at 10 a.m. Flights begin at that time for those who have preregistered. Registration will close at 1 p.m. and aircraft will fly until 2 p.m. or all registered kids have flown.