COLUMBUS, Ga. — The last Saturday of each month children eight to 17 are afforded the chance of a lifetime. They can come to Flightways at the Columbus Airport and ride in an airplane for free. It’s called the Young Eagles Program.
Saturday morning Flightways was crowded with kids signing up for the Young Eagles Program and they were anxious to spread their wings. 66 children between the ages eight and 17 got a birds-eye view of the Columbus area. Thanks to local pilots who volunteer their time and airplanes to put smiles on kids’ faces. Retired Lt. Col. Ken Sines flew helicopters in Vietnam. He was the first local pilot to take kids on a Young Eagles flight back in 1993.
“I’ve been flying young eagles now for about 25 years. And I’ve been flying for 55 years, so I’m an old timer,” says Retired Lt. Col. Ken Sines.
Since 1993 the colonel has taken 1,895 kids for a free ride in his Cherokee.
“This is called a transponder and the tower knows where we are and what altitude we are when we’re flying,” says Retired Lt. Col. Ken Sines.
The colonel even lets his co-pilot get a feel for the controls. But the talking is kept to a minimum because he knows his young passengers want to get in the air.
“You talk to them about what makes the airplane fly, and so they get to understand it a little bit. And then you take them for a flight and let one of them fly a little bit as co-pilot,” says Retired Lt. Col. Ken Sines.
Five planes were used to shuttle the Young Eagles into the skies. For many of the kids, like Double Churches fourth grader, Jihran Gomilla, it was their first time flying.
What was the neatest thing about it?
“That we were so high in the air and were going so fast. We could see all the Chattahoochee River and everything. And I saw my school,” says Jihran Gomilla. “My dream is to be a mathematician.>
Would that figure into flying do you think, probably?
“Probably because of the altitude and the RPM’s and stuff,” says Jihran Gomilla.
18-year-old Erik Lawrence is a volunteer with the Young Eagles Program. He’s a member of the ground crew. Erik took his first flight two years ago and said that’s when the flight bug bit him.
“I just kind of want to be a pilot in the Air Force and I do plan on getting my private pilot’s license in the summer after I graduate, so that will give me a head start toward going towards that path,” says Erik Lawrence.