It’s a dream of many young people to fly in a plane, and perhaps one day become professional pilots. Recently, a number of South Coast kids got a chance to take a free flight at the New Bedford Regional Airport. – some even handling the controls for a few minutes. Event organizers say that the objective is simple: give kids a taste of being up in the sky, and it just might spark a lifelong interest in aviation.
As small planes arrive and depart nearby, Izzy Markovici stood near the entrance to the Colonial Air terminal at New Bedford Airport. He’d just completed his flight.
“This time, I did most of the flight, and I was even afraid he was gonna make me land,” said Markovici. “I was at he controls most of the time, and he was just watching me in case I messed up. It was really fun. I was having the time of my life, and I hope to do it again.”
Markovici is 13. Kids can begin their flight training at around this age, and can get their solo pilot’s license by age 16.
“In 20 years, I hope to be either a commercial pilot or a military pilot,” Markovici said. “Because some people say, ‘Well, the pay’s terrible.’ But I don’t care about the pay. I wanna live. And what I find is fun and exhilarating is being up in the sky.”
The event was sponsored by local members of the Experimental Aircraft Association. Seven planes were on hand to take the kids up on the free flights. Erick deLeon is the Airport Manager.
“It’s about a 15-20 minute flight, so they head out towards Dartmouth, then south to the coastline – Fairhaven, Mattapoisett area, and then kinda circle back,” deLeon said.
deLeon noted that all the pilots are volunteering their time.
“They volunteer their time, their aircraft, the fuel, and everything it costs to get up there, just really to inspire kids to get into aviation and to see if we can spark an interest,” he said.
I went up on one of the flights with Tricia Moet, her daughter Caylee and Yeslin Barboza. Our pilot is Jan Aarsheim.
“I’ve been doin’ it for many years, so this is nice,” said Aarsheim. “It’s a treat to have the kids out at the airport.”
We do a long loop around New Bedford. The girls wore large headphones that let them hear the pilot and air traffic controllers.
Back on the ground, we headed back inside the Colonial Air terminal, where the two girls were given their wings.
Volunteer Lori Andrews stood next to a table laid out with rows of Young Eagle certificates. Kids come here right after their flights are over.
“We have all their certificates here. The pilot will fill it out with the name of the aircraft, the date, where they took their flight from. And then we actually have a logbook that the pilot again fills out. And that’s good for, whenever they take lessons, it will count towards their time. So if they wanna pursue flying, they’ve already logged their first flight,” Andrews said.
For some, the event will be a one-time experience. But organizers hope that giving these kids a taste of being in the air might inspire some to become lifelong aviators.