The EAA Young Eagles flight program at Santa Ynez Airport gives young students an opportunity to test their wings.

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Ashley Davidson

The program teaches youth about the different controls in airplanes, and also teaches them how each plane is different. Since its founding in 1992, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Young Eagles program has taught more than 1.3 million Young Eagles. At an event earlier this year, kids learned about each plane that would be flying during the event.

“I learned that most of the planes were built by the pilots,” said Charlotte Figueroa from the Santa Barbara Homesteaders group.

In the morning, families arrived to register. Youth ages 8-17 received a wrist band with a number on it, depending upon their time of arrival and placement in the lineup. After each kid went through that process, they gathered together and learned about each of the six planes. The event started at 10 a.m. as they called out the numbers in order. The Davidson family and their friend were registered as numbers one through three, so they were the first ones to board a plane.

As the Davidsons took off, they saw Lake Cachuma and the road to their house. They claimed it was a gorgeous flight and glorious view from the plane. Since Jeremy Davidson was sitting next to the pilot, he had the awesome opportunity to fly the plane!

“It was amazing and fun to fly the plane,” said Jeremy, age 9.

Jeremy’s friend, Dillon, expressed how surprised he was that Jeremy was allowed to fly the plane all by himself for quite a while. He also shared that while Jeremy was flying, he clutched the hand of the passenger next to him with great excitement and a tinge of fear.

When Figueroa and her brother boarded their plane and took off, she commented, “I thought about how amazing flight is and also how beautiful God’s creation is.” Their pilot’s name was Phil and he owned a Grumman Tiger 1979 plane.

Over the Santa Ynez Valley, there are stunning sites to see, such as the various ranches, vineyards, Lake Cachuma and vast grasslands.

“During our flight, I saw some beautiful sites and even my house!” Figueroa said.

The plane rides were 10 to 15 minutes long.

After everyone had taken their flights, the participants all ate hot dogs barbecued by the airport staff.

“My favorite part of the event was the thrill of flying and being able to ride in the experimental planes, which I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise,” said Figueroa, who was participating for the third time.

After the barbecue lunch, each participant received an EAA Young Eagles certificate for flying.

“Flying has motivated me to read more about planes than I ever would,” said Figueroa.

The certificates were signed by chairman Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones)! Students were amazed to learn Ford was an aviator and many had no idea he was the chairman of the EAA Young Eagles team.

Information about this event was provided during a field trip for homeschooling families to the Santa Barbara Airport. Even though the Santa Ynez Airport event was originally for sixth-graders only, the airport staff authorized the participation of children ages 8-17. That’s why 9-year-old Jeremy Davidson and his 9-year-old friend, Dillon, were able to fly and accompany Davidson’s sixth-grade sister.

“I think this event was wonderfully done, and I appreciated the pilots donating their time to make this event special for the children participating,” said Lisa Figueroa. “I have two children participating, and I think that each of them learned about flight and the responsibility of being a pilot.”

Students had a fun and exciting time at the event and hope others might feel inspired or encouraged to participate next year, too.

Click here for more information on EAA Young Eagles.

Noozhawk intern Ashley Davidson will be a homeschool seventh-grader in the fall.