NORWICH — The Experimental Aviation Association (EAA) Young Eagles Chapter 1204 is offering a free, four-week program to local middle and high schoolers, where they will learn about the world of aviation and how to build and fly their own aircraft.
The Build and Fly program is open to all middle and high schoolers in Chenango County and the surrounding areas, and sessions will occur from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lt. Warren E. Eaton Airport in Norwich on four Saturdays throughout the fall: September 24, October 1, October 8, and October 15.
"Primarily it is to assemble and then fly a radio controlled aircraft, and the kit is provided by the Experimental Aircraft Association. It’s made out of wood and plastic covering material, and the electric motor, and the electronic radio controlled unit," explained Young Eagles Coordinator Dave Dibbell. "Then hopefully by the fourth Saturday we would even be able to fly it."
Dibbell said the aircraft is not like a remote-controlled airplane bought in a store, however.
"It’s a pretty good sized thing, it’s about a six foot wingspan. It’s not a toy in the sense of something you would go to the store and buy and fly around, it’s a little bit bigger and more serious than that," he said. "This is a single aircraft, so all the kids that are involved are going to have an opportunity to participate in its building."
Participating students will also learn about the world of aviation, including career options, meet pilots and other mentors in the aviation field, and meet other students with an interest in aviation.
Lt. Warren E. Eaton Airport Administrator Shane Butler said, "It looks like it's going to be a great program, and I hope a lot of kids attend."
This year's Build and Fly program will be the first hosted by the EAA Young Eagles, but Dibbell said it's sure to be an educational and satisfying experience for students.
"It’s to obtain a satisfying, hands-on experience of actually being able to build something yourself and see the result. So it’s related to the Experimental Aircraft Association’s long standing support for amateurs to actually build and fly their own real airplanes," he said.
"Even to the extent that kids will learn that such a thing is even possible today at full scale, or for obtaining your license to fly, and even constructing an airplane yourself," he added. "That's part of EAA’s history and purpose. Of course it’s much more limited to be able to do it on just a radio controlled scale, but the whole idea is to give them that taste of an even greater experience."
There are 12 slots available for interested students. Registration is ongoing at chapters.eaa.org/eaa1204/build-and-fly-program and must be completed by Thursday, September 1.
The Young Eagles program is a nationwide volunteer-based program by the EAA that strives to teach children about the field of aviation, as well as provide the chance to take a flight in a plane.
"Our local chapter has had many years of sponsoring these flights by volunteer pilots. So the program is entirely volunteer, it’s intended to offer kids that qualify, ages eight through 17, a flight experience to, first of all, to give them that experience where they might not be otherwise able to obtain it, and to spark interest in aviation for all of its satisfying aspects, and even as a career," said Dibbell.
"We're not commercial pilots or any such thing," he continued. "Each pilot does it on his own, and the local chapter of the EAA conducts an event every year, we do it on Airport Day."
Although this year's Airport Day has since passed, Dibbell said the EAA Young Eagles Chapter 1204 is still available to provide free flights to interested kids aged eight through 17. Parents with children who would like to take a flight can contact Dibbell at 607-373-9195.
"That program is available aside from Airport Day, and I am the contact person should there be parents who have kids that want to sign up and arrange for a flight," said Dibbell.
More information on the Experimental Aircraft Association and the Young Eagles program can be found at EAA.org.