By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Frequent fliers know that booking a flight can be time-consuming and costly. However, that wasn's the case when the local Chapter 673 of the international Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) invited youth ages 8 to 17 to fly an airplane free of charge Aug. 4 at the Marlboro Airport. There were only two simple requirements: A parent or legal guardian needed to accompany them at the airport, and they needed to reserve a seat in advance by contacting the program director, Bob Hanlon.
“This program is a great opportunity for that age group,” Hanlon said. “We try to do the flights once a month year-round, if the weather is good. We like taking them on the flight one at a time. That makes the day a little longer, but all the pilots, including myself, love doing it.”
Boys and girls from throughout the Metrowest area took the recent flights, which were piloted by members of the EAA as volunteers. On the ground, the pilots explained what the young fliers could expect during the approximately 15-minute flight in a two- or four-seat plane. Before take-off, they helped buckle seatbelts and described the interior of the plane including the instrument panel.
Hanlon discovered some of the young flying enthusiasts had been previously educated in aviation.
“Many of them are learning on a computer with a flight simulator,” he said. “The software out there now is amazing, but there's nothing like getting into an airplane and flying it.”
Among those eager to take the next step in learning more about aviation was Timothy Goliger, 11, of Marlborough.
“I like the concept of flying,” he said. “I have a simulator and it's fun to play with that, so I thought it would be even more fun to go up in the air.”
While Timothy was in flight, his mother, Jaimie, looked up and commented, “I's surprised he got any sleep last night. He was so excited about doing this all week.”
Once they'se airborne, the young fliers typically share common observations.
“Every kid always says how small everyone looks,” Hanlon said. “And if they live in the area, they always want to fly over their house.”
Some of them even got the chance to take control of the plane.
“If we think a child is responsible enough, they'sl absolutely fly the airplane,” Hanlon said. “Of course, we don's let them take off or land, but they can fly around in an unpopulated zone.”
Doug Stone was Timothy's pilot and determined he could take control of the 1948 Piper Cub they were riding.
Back on the ground, Timothy said, “When the pilot said, “Turn left,” I thought he was turning the plane. But then I realized it was actually me turning the plane. It was great!”
Each of the young fliers was given a logbook with a code to activate their EAA student membership.
“It's an official logbook that they'sl continue using through their careers of flying airplanes,” Hanlon said.
After receiving a certificate and logbook, Timothy said, “Actually flying was a lot different than playing with the simulator.”
Following the flight experience, they have the option of continuing aviation studies with an online flight-training course, which is free of charge.
This marks the 20th anniversary of the Young Eagles program, which was launched in 1992 by the EAA Aviation Foundation at a Fly-In Convention in Oshkosh, Wis.
The next free flights are scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 8, beginning at 9 a.m. Registration is required at least 24 hours in advance. Flights are weather-dependent. Contact email@example.com or 508-509-2296. For more information, visit www.eaa-673.com.