Valley youth take to the skies<br>Free rides at Cottonwood Airpark

Dreams of flight.

Climbing across an indigo sky.

Waving to your petrified mom on the runway.

Young aviators accept the challenge tomorrow during the Cottonwood Auto, Aeroplane & Cycle Show at Cottonwood Airport.

The Verde Valley chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) encourages children 8 to 17 to take to the sky as part of its Young Eagles Program.

“We hope to build one-to-one relationships between pilots and young people giving the next generation the thrill of flight and the possibilities of the world of aviation,” explains Dr. Henry Kaldenbaugh, a local pediatrician and pilot.

Even as recently as 20 years ago, public airports were crowding with flyers, about 817,000, for the more than 4,600 airports that reject commercial flights. Now the number of Americans receiving flight training has fallen 25 percent to 616,000.

The Young Eagles Program is dedicated to changing this statistical tailspin.

Volunteer pilots are rising to the challenge with a goal of providing one million young people an airplane ride by the year 2003. The date will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers first powered fight and the 50th anniversary of the EAA.

The show begins at 7 a.m. with a pre-flight pancake breakfast continuing until 10 a.m.

Young aviators can sign up beginning at 9 a.m. and free flights continue until noon. A parent or guardian must be present to register.

“Children will be given a short pre-flight introduction to the aircraft,” says Kaldenbaugh, “then flown through an extended pattern over Cottonwood and Clarkdale.”

Following their flight, children will receive a certificate making them an official Young Eagle Flight Member and their name will be entered in the World’s Largest Logbook of Flight, for display at the EAA Air Adventure Museum in Oshkosh, Wisc.

“The Young Eagles program is a great way for me to introduce children to my love of flying,” says Kaldenbaugh. “We want every Young Eagle in the Verde Valley to get a chance to stretch their wings.”

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