When Richelle Moths decided to participate in the Young Eagles event at the Turlock Municipal Airport, she thought she was simply fulfilling a school project requirement. Instead, Moths participated in the opportunity of a lifetime as she took in a bird’s eye view of Turlock from the cockpit of a Cessna 152 II airplane.
“I was looking out the window and it was like looking at a tiny little model of the town,” said Moths. “All of the cars passing by looked like little toys.”
Moths, an eighth grader at Turlock Junior High School, was one of over 100 children between the ages of seven and 17 to take flight Saturday as part of the Young Eagles event, hosted by the Turlock Regional Aviation Association and sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association.
The event was created in 1992 by the EAA in order to promote aviation among younger generations, and since the event’s first year, two million children nationwide have participated in the unique aviation experience. At Saturday’s event, volunteer pilots traveled to Turlock from all over Central California and the Bay Area to share their passion for aviation with participants, giving the children an up-close look at what it’s like to fly a plane.
“There is a tremendous need for pilots, air traffic controllers and aeronautical engineers, so this hopefully sparks their imaginations to dream and say ‘I can do that,’” said TRAA President Todd Smith.
In addition to seeing Turlock from 1,500 feet in the air, Young Eagles also receive information about the plane they will be flying in. Prior to taking flight, each volunteer pilot completes a preflight inspection with their guest passenger, explaining how the plane works. Once inside the aircraft, the pilot goes over the plane’s controls, instrument panel and how they function. After this is completed, the airplane takes off on a prescribed route over Turlock for a 20 minute flight.
While flying, the volunteer pilots often let their young co-pilots take over the controls of the plane to get a feel for what flying a plane is really like. While the children do enjoy getting hands-on experience while flying, Smith explained that the real excitement often begins once the plane lands.
“It’s intriguing to them, but what’s amazing is the response after they go flying,” said Smith. “It’s incredible. They just have never experienced anything like it.”
“I thought it was amazing,” said Moths after her flight had ended. “I really thought it was educational for a lot of kids who maybe want to become pilots one day, and even if you don’t want to become a pilot one day it’s pretty life changing to go up there and see the town from up above. It really makes you feel like you are on top of the world and can do anything.”
Smith hopes that the excitement created from the Young Eagles event will inspire the pilots of tomorrow.
“We may have some future airline pilots here that will be flying in the next 20 years.”
The city’s airport recently entered into an agreement with Skyview Aviation, said Smith, and will now offer aircraft rentals and flight lessons. The Turlock Municipal Airport is located approximately 9 miles east of the city along East Avenue at Newport Road. For more information on lessons and the airport itself, visit www.turlockairport.com.