Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


April 27, 2014

RHS cadets on the wing

Young Eagles take to sky

SOUTH POINT — Retired USAF Lt. Col. Terry Maggard still gets a great deal of satisfaction from seeing the faces of young people who’ve just had their first flight experience.

The retired F-15 fighter pilot, who now serves as Russell High School’s AFJROTC instructor, wrangled two dozen students into smaller squads after school Thursday to provide each with an opportunity to fly in a civilian aircraft. Each also got their chance to take control and fly the plane themselves — under highly supervised conditions as part of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) Young Eagles program.

“They’re still talking about it today,” Maggard said Friday morning, proudly adding 23 of the 24 cadets reported an outstanding experience, with at least one receiving high praise from her volunteer instructor. Of the 24 who signed up to fly, Maggard said 11 had never before been in any type of aircraft, including Keira Wallace, Alyssa Bryant and Rhiannon Bailey.

“I’ve never been on a train, a plane, a boat or anything else. I’ve never even been to the beach,” said Bailey as she awaited her aircraft assignment.

Nearby, cadet Laney Blevins didn’t need anyone to explain she was awaiting her first flight. Nervously, Blevins proclaimed her combined excitement and reservations, joking that she hoped to keep control of her bladder once in the air.

After each flight was concluded, Maggard said cadet Keira Wallace received an outstanding review from her volunteer pilot.

“He said another hour and she would be ready to solo — not to take off and land but to fly solo,” he said.

Pilot Dan Pelfrey, who volunteered to fly the day’s cadets along with fellow flyers Joey Johnson, Nelson Whitt and Kevin Thomas, said he believes the Young Eagles program serves several important purposes.

“For many of these kids, it’s the first and possibly only chance to fly. And, it’s such a thrilling experience, you want to be there for it,” Pelfrey said, adding he likes the idea that a simple flight might plant the seeds for a future career in aviation.

Part-time pilot Christopher Colt of Flatwoods said he wasn’t there to do any piloting, although he was there to watch as his son, Nathan, experienced flight.

“It lets them know there’s no boundaries. The only boundaries are the ones we set for ourselves,” he said, noting his son has special needs. “ROTC lets them explore, and push their boundaries.”

Once his son was back on the ground, Colt said he could tell the young man enjoyed himself. “He was grinning from ear to ear,” he said, beaming a smile of his own.

Rhiannon Bailey, who made her first flight alongside pilot Joey Johnson, embraced the experience even after a fellow cadet practically begged to get out of the aircraft. The 15-year-old freshman had no uncertainties about her emotions after their aircraft was safely back on the runway.

“That was the greatest experience ever,” Bailey said. “I would do it again every day.”

Maggard said he has been bringing students to airfield in Ohio since 2005, and is always impressed by the reception his students receive.

“The Lawrence County crew is great. I keep talking about the pilots that fly my kids, but there are a large number of pilots on the ground that coordinate schedules, escort the students to the planes, and meet them after they fly to give them a ‘pilot log’ and take pictures of them with their pilot. It takes a village to get my kids in the air, and they will remember this generosity for the rest of their lives,” Maggard said.

According to the EAA website, “The EAA Young Eagles program was launched in 1992 to give interested young people, ages 8 to 17, an opportunity to go flying in a general aviation airplane. These flights are offered free of charge and are made possible through the generosity of EAA member volunteers.

Since 1992, more than 1.6 million Young Eagles have enjoyed a flight through the program. Young Eagles have been registered in more than 90 different countries and have been flown by more than 42,000 volunteer pilots.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.

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