For kids who have dreamed of one day becoming a pilot, a free opportunity is coming to get behind the controls of an aircraft.
Hoping to inspire future aviators, a collective of local Lake County pilots will offer free flights to youth ages 8-17 at a Young Eagles event on Saturday, Nov. 9 starting at 10 a.m. at the Lake County Airport in Lakeview. Two Cessna 182 aircraft will be provided for the event, providing 20-minute flights around the Lakeview area, with kids getting the opportunity to be at the controls. Upon completion of each flight kids will be given their very own logbook to document their first flight.
Hosted by Oregon Outback Aviators, a Lake County flying club formed less than two years ago, the event is intended as a way to inspire future pilots and connect aeronautical principles with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills taught in schools. The event is being conducted in connection with the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), part of a national EAA Young Eagles program offering introductory flights to youth.
Registration for the event is free, and includes a pancake breakfast for participants. Parents are permitted to fly as well, though it is preferred that if they do they are in the backseat so that kids can fly the aircraft. Back seats are also available for other youth in attendance.
Opportunities for kids extends beyond just the Lakeview event, as their registration adds each as an EAA Young Eagle, allowing access to aviation-related educational materials available through EAA online for free.
If weather on Saturday, Nov. 9 is not conducive for flying, the event will instead take place on Saturday, Nov. 16.
The EAA Young Eagles showcase is the latest effort by the Oregon Outback Aviators to increase general aviation activities in Lake County. The brainchild of Bruce Webbon, a pilot and retired NASA engineer who owns his own aircraft in Lakeview, the club is an informal collective of fellow pilots and aviation enthusiasts with an interest in flying. The group meets on the third Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. at the airport hangar’s main lounge, the public is welcome to attend meetings.
Trainer on site
Initially the club sought to purchase their own aircraft as a means to offer reduced rental times for members. When participants became sheepish about the financing, instead airport manager Tom Andrews purchased an aircraft, which has been made available as a trainer for flight lessons or rental for local pilots.
To facilitate local flight students, an instructor from the Klamath Falls area, Walt Krupnak, has been traveling to Lakeview each weekend to train students. Webbon has recently earned his qualifications as a ground school instructor as well. He intends to become a fully certified flight instructor by next spring to provide further opportunities for general aviation to expand in Lake County.
Earlier this year the Oregon Outback Aviators hosted an open house at the airport, and despite bad weather had tremendous turnout of individuals interested in getting airborne, confirming the need for flight school services in Lake County.
Webbon is planning to launch a ground school for pilots-in-training soon as a 10-12 week course, as well as flight mentoring or a separate course from the club. He is often asked to donate flights for various causes, but asks that for any request outside the club a donation is made either to Oregon Outback Aviators or the Oregon Outback Humane Society. Webbon also volunteers to fly for Lake County Search and Rescue.
The Young Eagles event will be another opportunity to showcase the airport facilities, which in addition to operating as a year-round general aviation airport and season fire station for Single-Engine Air Tankers (SEAT), has seen several renovations in recent years. The runway and ramp areas have been repaved, and taxiways chip-sealed.
“We have gotten several people back into flying,” Webbon said proudly of the Outback Aviators flying club. “We have recruited flight students into the club. We hope this event helps inspire kids to want to learn to fly.”
Membership in the Oregon Outback Aviators is $100, but includes a 15% reduced rental rate for Andrews’ Cessna aircraft. At normally $140 per hour to rent (including fuel), the cost of membership pays for itself through reduced rental rates after only seven hours of flight time.
The Lake County Airport is located at 17819 Airport Road in Lakeview.