Last free flights for youngsters will take off Saturday

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 19, 2003

Free aircraft flights will be available for area youngsters at the Albert Lea Airport for the last time as part of the national Young Eagles program, according to local pilot Paul Stieler.

The free flights will take place from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Sept. 20, with a rain date of Sept. 27.

This will be the ninth year the free flights are being offered as a special educational promotion by area members of the Vintage Aircraft Division, Chapter 13, of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) of Oshkosh, Wis.

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Stieler said about 1,000 area youngsters have participated in the Young Eagles flight program during the past nine years.

The planes will be piloted by EAA members as part of a national program designed to help the Imagination of young people take flight.

Information from the Oshkosh-based organization says, &uot;The mission of the EAA Aviation Foundation’s Young Eagles Program is to provide a motivational aviation experience; focusing on a demonstration flight in an airplane.

&uot;Our goal is to reach one million young people by (Dec. 17) 2003 &045; the dawn of aviation’s’ second century and 50th anniversary of EAA. … These flights are provided free of charge to any youth wishing to participate.&uot;

The EAA and its divisions have already given more than 968,587 free aircraft rides to Young Eagles in the nation as of Sept. 16, according to Stieler who obtained the updated totals from EAA in Oshkosh.

At the end of the flight, each participant will receive an Eagle Flight Certificate signed by the pilot, as well as the Young Eagles honorary chairman, retired general and former astronaut Chuck Yeager. Stieler added that a set of flight wings will also be given to each new Young Eagle this year.

Then the Young Eagles’ name will be entered into the &uot;World’s Largest Logbook,&uot; which is maintained at the EAA Air Adventure Museum in Oshkosh. Also, a special complimentary issue of EAA’s &uot;Sport Aviation for Kids&uot; magazine will be sent to each new Young Eagle.

This program is open to all area youths between the ages of 8 and 17. A registration form must be filled out before the flight is taken, and permission of a parent or guardian by signature is also required.

Those wishing to take part in the Young Eagles Flight Rally can sign up at a table which will be set up near the airport’s main hangar.

For more information about the Young Eagles program, contact Paul Stieler at 377-2291, or the Albert Lea Airport at 373-0608.

Participating pilots in this year’s Young Eagle flights will include Jim Hanson of Clarks Grove, Chuck Sandager of Albert Lea, and Dale Folkerts of Rudd, Iowa. Mike Nevins of the Albert Lea Aviation Flight School will be helping with the registration and possibly furnishing an aircraft for the rides.

Stieler said Elks Lodge #813 of Albert Lea has again given funds to publicize and support this program.

(Contact Ed Shannon at ed.shannon or 379-3434.)