Young Eagles soar with veteran pilots at Manitoulin East Municipal Airport

Mr. and Ms. Jan Gortzak and their daughter Kaitlyn, nine-years-old, loved their Young Eagles airplane ride with pilot Jeff Cartman who keeps his plane at the Sudbury airport. Mr. Cartman is following a long family tradition as his father Saul flew Young Eagles for years. photo by Bonnie Kogos

LITTLE CURRENT—If you ask those who have spent their lives flying above the clouds, they will tell you that they acquired their passion for flying at a very young age. As with most passions, those who have been bitten with the flying bug dearly want to share their love of flying with a new generation—enter the pilots of the Young Eagles youth flying program.

Lloyd Richards of Timmins brought the Young Eagles program to Canada decades ago and, since then, has taken 2,500 young flyers up in his plane to experience the joy of soaring above the clouds. Mr. Richards continues to serve as the Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles field representative.

This year’s Young Eagles flights almost didn’t take place, as 45-knot winds and intermittent rain on the originally scheduled flight day forced the cancellation of that day’s flights. Fortunately, the next morning proved more amendable to taking to the air and 44 young aviators got the opportunity to go aloft.

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“Here in Little Current it’s 15 for sure, might even be closer to 20,” said Mr. Richards. “I made a commitment 25 years ago that I would take 1,000 kids up. Ten years ago we hit our first million and I had 1,000. We just kept going.”

This is the 25th anniversary of the Young Eagle program. “We kind of wanted to get 2,500,” he said. “We have a special pin for anybody who flies 25 this year and I was short six. I got eight today so I’m good,” he laughed.

Katie and Maggie Chapman of Little Current are old hands at flying (their father Joe Chapman owned his own plane for a time). The two sisters are regulars at the Young Eagles flights and they were enthusiastic about the experience. “It was great,” said Maggie, who is convinced her father will be buying a new plane when she gets a little older so she too can learn to fly.

Following the flights there are hot dogs and pop while a flight certificate is filled out to commemorate the event.

As part of the fundraising, Island artist Heli Cotnam created a painting of a plane in flight that was won in a silent auction by Bob White.