Jonathan Bailon, 9, adjusts his headset as he prepares to take to the skies Saturday during the Young Eagles Flight Rally, hosted by the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 542 at the Skylark Field Airport in Killeen.
From left, Derek LeBounty, 10, Dillon Hocutt, 13, and Dustin Hocutt, 10, all of Florence, get last-minute instruction from pilot Jim Livingston before takeoff Saturday during the Young Eagles Flight Rally at the Skylark Field Airport in Killeen.

Experimental Aircraft Association lets children explore aviation

By Krista M. Madkins

Killeen Daily Herald

As children waited in the hallways of the Central Texas College Aviation Center at Skylark Field Airport Saturday in Killeen, excitement grew among them.

They were about to fly.

Thirty-nine children participated in the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 542 Young Eagles Flight Rally, an event that encourages interest in the aviation field among children.

“It is about getting kids up for the first time,” said Dick Kost, event coordinator.

The Folger sisters, Allie, Amee and Alyssa, eagerly awaited their turn to fly in one of six aircrafts. Their mother, Suzanne Arnett, said her youngest was so excited that she didn’t sleep the night before; however, all of the girls said they were a little nervous about flying.

Arnett said she felt it was important to let her children have this once-in-a-lifetime experience because in college she studied aerospace engineering. She said if they like it, great, but if they don’t, it was still an experience for them.

At the event, children, ages 8 to 17, were briefed on parts of the airplane, the basic forces of flight and safety. After the 30-minute class, led by instructor John Ridout, the youth were instructed to fill out a registration form that made them eligible to fly with a pilot.

Most of the children who were there had either never been on a plane or were to young too remember being on a commercial flight.

“This is my first time on an airplane,” said Triana Everett, as her father continued to register all of his children that were of age to participate.

Each flight lasted a total of 15 minutes, with the pilot demonstrating how the aircraft turns and maneuvers. The children also got an aerial view of Stillhouse Hollow Lake as they flew over, said Kost.

“Will they take us upside down?” asked Triana Everett, when she received the news that they would be flown over the lake.

Her siblings Tahir and Takara Everett chimed in with “no, no.” Although, they were there for the event, they had no idea they would get to participate in something like this because their father, Jenon Everett, had just woke them up and told them to get ready.

Outside, near the airplanes, Ridout waited for his next group.

“The last few groups of girls I took up were very interested and were planning to start asking for related stuff for birthdays,” he said.

When it started 16 years ago, Kost said the organization’s goal was to fly 1 million young people. The Experimental Aircraft Association has met that goal and is currently at about 1.6 million flights with youths.