Sunday, June 26, 2005

Young Eagles and Old Cubs

It was a long, hot day in the air yesterday; tons of fun, though. I started the day early at Cherry Ridge, where the EAA was holding a weather-delayed Young Eagles day. This is a great program which offers free airplane rides in small aircraft to children in the community, to encourage interest in aviation. My CAP squadron supports their efforts by helping to brief the children while they are waiting to fly. We tell them how an airplane works, and what kind of sensations they can expect in the air, and it really seems to help them have a positive experience.

While waiting for our CAP plane to fly in, I parked 02P in front of the hangar to help with the briefings; but there was a huge turnout of kids waiting to fly. (A good thing!) The EAA organizers had three Cubs, which can carry one passenger each, but the four-seat Cessna was sidelined with a mechanical problem. So they asked me if I would like to take some riders in my plane.

Megan and Segen Garrit
Levi and Cody Jessica and Kelly
Well, those who know me know that they didn't have to ask twice! I love taking kids for rides. I ended up launching six times, with two kids on board each time; twelve for me, with the day's total being 67 Young Eagles! The chapter guys told me that that is a record; and a great day all around, lots of big smiles and not one case of airsickness. Most of the kids I flew with were from 9 to 11 years old, and many were first-time flyers. I took them on a circuit around Lake Wallenpaupack, and we watched the boats on the lake, and they got to experience the world from on high. ("This is like a bird's-eye view!") So, to Kelly, Jessica, Garrit, JJ, Josiah, Shawn, Megan, Segen, Chris, Steven, Cody, and Levi - it was great flying with you!

Afterwards, I peeled off my damp flightsuit and refueled the plane. I was planning on going down to Lock Haven, Pennsylvania to catch the end of the yearly fly-in, "Sentimental Journey". My CAP comrade Alan said that his afternoon was free and asked to come along, and I was happy to have his company; we are both old-airplane buffs, and Alan is a Cub flyer from "back in the day".

Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
A little aviation history: (here he goes again...) From 1931 to 1994, over 100,000 small airplanes were built in the pastoral valley of Lock Haven; our Tri-Pacer was one of them. The most numerous and well-known was the Piper Cub, a simple two-seat airplane that came closer than anything to being "the Model T of the Air". In the decades after WWII, the little yellow planes with the black lightning bolts on their sides were everywhere; "Piper Cub" became synonymous with "small plane" in the way that people now call all small planes "Cessnas".

Plane camping
Originally uploaded by AviatorDave.
Today, thousands of the old Pipers are still flying, and many of them fly to Lock Haven every summer for Sentimental Journey. It's a friendly, low-key fly-in; many of the visitors camp out on the broad meadow that serves as parking next to the grass runway. The old Piper plant is still there, silent except for a small but very nice museum - all modern Piper airplanes are now made in Vero Beach, Florida.

Alan and I parked next to another Tri-Pacer; the field was about half-empty, as this was the last day. Some of the attendees fly in from as far away as Texas and California; an awesome commitment, as the old Cubs only fly at about 75 m.p.h.! Vaulting over the Rockies must be a feat with 65 horsepower, too. We walked up and down the rows of antique planes, had a carnival-food lunch, and toured the museum (making a point, of course, to make a fuss over the museum cat.)

Another hour's flight in the summer haze and we were home. I haven't totaled up the time yet, but I'm sure it was close to six hours in the air! Quite a fun weekend, for a weekend flier.