Students take flight, thanks to pilots

Published 1:36 pm Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A recent fly-in by amateur pilots offered many local youth the chance to experience flying for the first time, its organizer said.

During Bainbridge Young Eagle V, students aged 8-18 were taken on 30-minute orientation flights in the Bainbridge-Decatur County area, said Col. Gary Breedlove, director of the Air Force Junior ROTC program at Bainbridge High School.

The students took to the skies as part of the Young Eagles program, sponsored by the Tallahassee, Fla., chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association, an international organization of recreational pilots.

To make the Young Eagle program a success, pilots from Alabama, Florida and Georgia volunteered their time, gas and money to give local children and youth the chance of a lifetime. The goal was to get 100 students to participate in the free flights using three pilots coming up from Tallahassee to fly them.

One-hundred-two children and youth went up in an airplane during the one-day event, a statistic Breedlove said was marvelous.

Only 17 of the 102 were JROTC cadets, which meant the majority of the flights were taken by students who just wanted to see what flying was like, Breedlove said. In addition to being fun, the program is partly educational because it could encourage youth to focus on their studies with the goal of becoming pilots or pursue a related occupation in the aviation industry, he said.