Flight Fancy: EAA 822 Fly-In Sparks Imagination for Tomorrow’s Pilots
Five years ago, 14-year-old Savannah Weaver of Millbrook was sitting in the back seat of a little Cessna Aircraft on the runway at Wetumpka Municipal Airport, nervous but eager to take her inaugural air flight.
Saturday at that same spot, Weaver was sitting in the front seat of a similar Cessna, no longer nervous but still just as eager to take off and go flying. And this time, Weaver was the pilot.
Five years ago, she was the dreamer. Now, as she’s in the process of making her own dream come true, she’s trying to spur the imagination of some wide-eyed youngster who perhaps will become the next Savannah Weaver.
Weaver, who now lives in Coosada, joined other pilots at Saturday’s EAA 822 Fly-In, which is designed to “interest new people in general aviation,” said Stan Tew, vice president of Chapter 822, the 75-member Experimental Aircraft Association group that is based at the Wetumpka airport.
Last year, EAA 82 sent 165 kids ages 8 to 17 into the air, the vast majority for the first time. Saturday’s sunny weather had youngsters rolling in from all over the tri-county area, and Tew thought the final tally would come close to matching that total, if not surpass it.
“We’re putting a lot of kids into the air today,” he said.
One was 9-year-old J.P. Baughman of Wetumpka.
Baughman, standing in line with parents Rhonda and Joe, admitted to being a little nervous as he waited for his first-ever air ride. But he also was excited.
“I just want to know what it feels like,” he said.
Apparently, that feeling is “awesome,” which was the most common expression from those departing the planes after a 15- to 20-minute flight that reached altitudes of 1,500 to 2,000 feet.
Cade Taylor of Wetumpka, Case Edwards of Titus and Kaleb Labier of Deatsville all flew together in a Piper Cherokee. It was the first flight for all three.
“I wasn’t nervous,” Taylor said, “but I told the pilot if there was a turn or flip, I’m going to throw up.”
Taylor said his most vivid memory was looking down on a flock of hawks. “I’ve never even seen a hawk before, so that was the best part for me,” he said.
Edwards said he saw two dams and a prison.
“After we passed the second dam, there was this island with nothing on it except for a billboard,” he said. “That was kinda weird, I thought.”
Taylor and Edwards went as part of an activity for Cub Scout Pack 50 out of Wetumpka. They received an activity pin; Boy Scout troop members got a merit badge.
In a nice twist, Chapter 822 member and longtime pilot Dave Ramsey had the honor of taking two special “Young Eagles” on their flight Saturday — grandkids Cole, 11, and Hope. They flew in Ramsey’s Cessna 195, a 1952 Business Liner.
Saturday’s event, Tew said, helps connect young people to the passion of flying. Some will stick with it. Most won’t.
“When you get on a big plane in Atlanta and fly to the West Coast, the pilot of that plane made his first flight in something just like that,” Tew said, pointing to a Cessna two-seater. “You have to start at the bottom.”
That’s exactly what Weaver has done. She has an instrument rating and is now embarking on getting her commercial rating.
Few around the Wetumpka airport have doubts about Weaver doing that, or anything else she sets her mind to.
“She’s one who’s caught the bug,” said Chapter 822 member John Castor.
“It’s absolutely addictive,” Weaver said before taking three more kids into the air.