By Alisha McDarris
For Hometown News
TREASURE COAST -- More than 150 kids took to the skies last Saturday in the Experimental Aircraft Association's biannual Young Eagles program.
The EAA started the Young Eagles program in 1992 to give young people the opportunity to experience flight.
Since then the program has spread to 90 countries and some 40,000 volunteer pilots have taken up kids from 8-17 at no cost to them or their parents.
Ron Rowers, president of the local EAA chapter, is one of those volunteers. For four years he's been introducing children to the view from the cockpit in what is often their first time in an airplane.
"I love flying. I love to give the kids the opportunity to learn about flying," Mr. Rowers said.
He's not alone. Twelve pilots donated their time, aircraft and fuel on Saturday to give over 150 kids the thrill of a lifetime.
Stuart Jet Center even provided 100 gallons of fuel and the use of their facility to help cultivate a love of aviation for the next generation and local restaurants and sponsors donated sandwiches and water.
"Everyone has fun and everyone has a smile on their face," said Mr. Rowers.
The kids ask questions, learn about the aircraft, listen in on pilot's conversations with the control tower and pick out their house or school as they fly over the city during their 15-minute ride. Afterward they get a logbook, certificate and an invitation to come back to an EAA meeting any time they like.
"Putting a kid in an airplane and giving them their first flight is a game changer," Mr. Rowers said.
It's an opportunity for kids to experience first-hand what it takes to be a pilot and realize that it is an attainable goal. Many have gone on to become pilots, aircraft mechanics or aeronautical engineers themselves, all thanks to the Young Eagles program.
The second Young Eagles event will be in the fall following the Stuart Air Show and more information on dates, times and the Young Eagles program can be found on the local EAA chapter's website, www.eaachapter692.com.