Local children take flight
Best friends Ciana Elizalde and Tania Chavez, who had never been on an airplane before, shivered with excitement Saturday morning as they waited for their turn to sail over the Santa Ynez Valley.
The 12-year-old Lompoc residents were among about 60 children in Santa Barbara County foster care who got the chance to fly at the Santa Ynez Airport on Saturday, Oct. 23. The event was put on jointly by the American Charities Foundation and the Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles, a program that gives youth the chance to ride in an airplane.
Before flying on a Piper Cherokee Arrow II, Ciana said that the opportunity was cool, “because no other kid gets to do this besides the other ones here.
“I want to go in one with the little circle for the window,” she said.
Ten pilots volunteered their time and aircraft to give the children the chance to fly in an airplane, an activity that some had never done before.
“This is amazing,” said Barbara Perkins, co-founder and executive director of American Charities Foundation, as she paused from hurrying around snapping pictures and greeting the children returning from their short flights. American Charities Foundation is a Santa Ynez-based nonprofit organization that supports foster children.
“We’re so blessed they’re doing this for us,” she said of the pilot volunteers. “The community resources are huge.”
Charlie Plumb, a pilot and member of the EAA Young Eagles, said the airport reduced the price of gas to fuel the planes taking part in Saturday’s event.
He noted that each child passenger received a Young Eagles certificate and membership to the student EAA. They also were registered in the “biggest log book in the world.”
“All because we want to pass along this legacy, this passion for flight,” Plumb said.
He added that the children’s reactions are the reason the pilots volunteer for Young Eagles.
“They smile from ear to ear,” Plumb added. If just one of the children pursues a career in aviation, “then we’ve done our job.”
Pilots, including some who flew in World War II, from Lompoc, Santa Ynez and Santa Barbara participated, according to Plumb, who said he flew in Vietnam, where he became a prisoner of war.
The Santa Ynez airfield bustled as pilots cheerfully greeted small groups of children who then followed the pilots to their planes. The participants put on headphones once in the planes, and smiled and waved in the direction of the other waiting children and adults accompanying them.
The expressions were largely ones of happiness as the youths returned to earth, certificates of accomplishment in hand.
Ciana and Tania landed with tales to tell.
“It was like a car ride,” Ciana said, and the view was “pretty. Like, really, really sunny.”
“We saw this cool truck,” Tania added. “It looked like a toy car.”