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Youths at Young Eagle Flight Rally explore aviation field

Published: Monday, June 13, 2011 5:30 a.m. CDT
(Kyle Bursaw – kbursaw@daily-chronicle.com)
Cooper Hoffman (from left), Tucker Hoffman, Brendan Kaplan, and Henry Plamondon look inside the cockpit Saturday as Kevin Frank explains different parts of his plane to children during the EAA Young Eagles Rally at the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport.

DeKALB – It was too foggy to fly Saturday morning, but the Young Eagle Flight Rally still piqued the interest of area youth who want to know more about the field of aviation.

The flight rally is meant to do just that – energize young people who might be considering aviation as a career, or even a hobby, when they get older. Kevin Drendel, 13, of Malta is interested in being a pilot and is already planning to participate in a junior pilot program at the airport this summer. His mom, Vickie Drendel, has been proactive about getting Kevin involved with aviation at an early age.

“Anything that’s going to help build in his knowledge ... and what you can do careerwise, we like that,” she said.

The flight rally is a program hosted by the Experimental Aircraft Association, Chapter 241, which is an international aviation association with members of every age group. Rose Ellen May, coordinator of the Young Eagle Flight Rally, said youth who participate in the program, which has been hosted locally by the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport for close to 40 years, typically get a chance to take a free airplane ride.

Because of low visibility, no planes were in the air Saturday. But the two dozen or so kids who participated experienced what May called a mini-ground school where they got an introduction to planes and flight instruments. Kids ages 8-17 sat in the cockpits of several smaller planes in the hangar area as a handful of volunteer pilots explained the controls, even letting them use some of the functions.

After touring the airport’s main hangar, 14-year-old Clayton Kaus of Waterman said he was surprised by how much training was required to earn a pilot’s license. Though he didn’t get a chance to take a flight in one of the small aircraft, he said what he learned made him even more interested in pursuing a career as a pilot.

“I like the whole idea of being able to control [the plane], being in the air so high, the views,” Clayton said. “The whole thing sounds pretty cool.”

May said when kids do get a chance to take a 15- 20-minute plane ride during the rally, pilots typically try to find kids’ houses or point out landmarks, such as Northern Illinois University. On planes where there are dual controls, pilots sometimes even let young participants take control of flying the aircraft.

“The rally is an introduction of the next generation of pilots into aviation,” May said. “We want to remind them that we’re all ordinary people – we’re not millionaires – and we want to share our enthusiasm for aviation.”

She said youth who get the opportunity to fly or get a closer look at planes might change their attitude about aviation or further consider it as a career or hobby.

Patricia Compton, 13, came to DeKalb from Algonquin with her parents, Jim and Kari Compton. She’s been interested in aviation as a career since she was little, and she was even an honorary flight attendant for a day when her family took a commercial flight on vacation when she was younger. “It’s just nice to get away from it all and be free,” Patricia said.

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