LearnINg to fly

Young Eagles Rally set for August

Fred Benzie, shown by a 1977 Piper Archer II, is one of the pilots involved in the local Young Eagles program. Chapter 850 of the Experimental Aviation Association will put on a Young Eagles Rally on Aug. 17 at Sawyer International Airport. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)


Journal Staff Writer

K.I. SAWYER — Youngsters soon will have the opportunity to view Marquette County in a way typically only an experienced aviator — or a very high-flying eagle — could see.

In fact, the program involved in such an opportunity is called the Young Eagles.

Chapter 850 of the Experimental Aircraft Association will conduct a Young Eagles Rally from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 17 at Sawyer International Airport, specifically next to Boreal Aviation.

A pilot certified with the Federal Aviation Administration or Transport Canada will explain to each participant how airplanes work, look at an aeronautical chart or map and describe the inside of the airplane, including the instrument panel.

The youngster then gets to go on a ride of about 15 to 20 minutes and see first-hand — as has been noted by previous Young Eagles — things such as the vast number of trees that grow near K.I. Sawyer.

A bird’s-eye view, after all, allows them to see such sights and glimpse bodies of water and rooftops.

Fred Benzie, vice president of Chapter 850, is active with the Young Eagles, which was launched by the EAA in 1992 and is designed as an introductory flight to children between the ages of 8 and 17.

“The long-term goal is to get these children into aviation, either as a career or for flying — to promote aviation,” Benzie said.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association reported that the EAA, based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in 2011 announced the results of a study on the Young Eagles, conducted with the FAA, that indicated participants were 5.4 times more likely to earn a pilot certificate than those who never participated.

As of July 15, more than 2 million Young Eagles have flown in the program.

Benzie has flown numerous flights in the program, and will be one of the pilots donating their time and aircraft at the Young Eagles Rally.

Each aircraft, he said, is preflighted — or examined for airworthiness before a flight.

For example, Benzie checks the oil as well as all the lights to make sure they’re working.

Following the Young Eagles flight, a youngster will receive a free official membership in EAA until his or her 18th birthday, the EAA Chapter 850, the Academy of Model Aviation and the local Sands Model Airplane Club.

Young Eagles also will have free access to ground school flight training through Sporty’s Pilot Shop, which sponsors the Young Eagles program along with Phillips 66. After completing this training, each participant will be ready to take the FAA examination, with the cost reimbursed by the EAA.

Teenagers age 15 and older can learn to fly through the Marquette County Flying Club, which has a Cessna 150 used for flight training. Training costs $20 per hour plus about $25 per hour for fuel and an instructor’s fee of roughly $40 per hour.

FAA requires a minimum of 40 hours of training to earn a pilot’s license. A pilot needs to be only 16 years old to fly solo, and full pilot privileges can be obtained as early as age 17.

One longtime Young Eagles pilot is Jim Drobny, who has been involved in the program for more than two decades.

“It’s nice to get kids introduced,” Drobny said.

And the EAA, he noted, is a good way for them to get involved in aviation, especially with the current pilot population getting older.

“I think a lot of kids aren’t really aware of the opportunities, that it’s something out there that they enjoy,” Drobny said.

Not every kid, though, will become a pilot. However, through the Young Eagles program, they at least can be exposed to and learn about the flying world — and what the world looks like from up in the air.

“A lot of them will look around and get a little different perspective,” Drobny said.

To register online, visit https://youngeaglesday.org/?605 , although there currently is a wait list. A parent will need to be present on the day of the event to sign a release form. For more details, contact Ted Kirkpatrick at 906-361-6196.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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