Young Eagles soar through the Manitoulin skies

Young Eagle participant Trenton Trudeau poses with his pilot in front of the plane that took him for a flight over Manitoulin. photo by Michael Erskine

MANITOWANING – The volunteer pilots of the Young Eagle program held at the Manitoulin East Municipal Airport were kept busy this weekend as 53 eager young flyers between the ages of eight and 17 took to the air.

“It went really good,” said airport manager George Dobbs, who along with Gore Bay’s Wade Cook and retired OPP officer Andy Atchison spent the day taking their young charges up in a variety of small recreational aircraft. “A good time was had by all.”

Meanwhile, volunteer Heli Cotnam stood sentry inside the terminal building handing out free hot dogs (generously supplied by G.G.’s Foodland) and drinks to the young flyers.

“We hand out the hot dogs and pop after the kids fly,” laughed Mr. Dobbs. “It makes for a more pleasant experience for everyone involved.”

Founded in 1992, the Young Eagles program was created by the US Experimental Aircraft Association and was designed to give children between the ages of eight to 17 an opportunity to “experience flight in a general aviation airplane while educating them about aviation.”

The Young Eagles program is offered free of charge with the costs being covered by the volunteers who simply want to share their love of flying with the next generation.

“We do it because we love it,” said Mr. Dobbs, who notes that the airport helps to sponsor the event as well. “But it is also a great public relations boon,” he said.

The weather was cooperative, with clear blue skies helping to make the experience memorable. Young flyers each received a certificate to commemorate the experience and the pilots happily accommodated parents and caregivers wanting to take a photograph of the day.

“It was great,” said Trenton Trudeau before dashing off to tell his friends waiting patiently for their turn in the air about his trip.