As appreciation days go, it was pretty successful.
Oakdale Airport Appreciation Day on Saturday saw more than 100 youngsters get treated to free plane rides – and learning more about the craft as they went.
Pilots volunteered their planes, their fuel, their time and expertise to make it a memorable day for the community.
Spokesman Don Gutridge said there were 105 ‘official’ Young Eagles flights given to youngsters, along with another dozen or so rides for parents and airport neighbors.
“I want to see McDonald’s, my school and my house,” said Jose Aguirre, 12, of Oakdale as he waited to take a seat in a 1949 Cessna 170A.
Pilot Terry Lucas of Oakdale welcomed Jose, his mom Tracye and Leader editor Marg Jackson on board the plane for quick tour of the surrounding countryside.
“I’ve been flying about 35 years,” Lucas explained. “I’d always been interested in airplanes, it was the money that kept me back.”
But once he got the financing figured out, Lucas was in the air. His Cessna has a cruising speed of about 118 miles per hour and the top speed is about 140 mph, he said. On Saturday, top speed was about 90 for the brief overhead tour of the Oakdale-Escalon-Riverbank area.
One of many volunteer pilots that came in to share their love of aeronautics with youngsters, Lucas estimated he would burn “a couple hundred dollars” worth of fuel on the day. But it was worth it, he said, because he enjoys “flying kids” and introducing them to the world of aviation.
“Seven pilots donated their airplane and time and flying skills with operating costs generally running between about $100 per hour per airplane,” Appreciation Day spokesman Gutridge explained. “Visiting aircraft and cars included some amazing super quality and rare machinery like the real Indy Car Offenhauser powered street rod. Many exceptional rod and classics were presented at this year’s Oakdale Airport Appreciation Day.”
Descending on Oakdale from above was a Waco UPF-7 owned by Rhett Boeger of Pleasanton, who stole the show after the show, added Gutridge. The vintage biplane is a restored 1940 model that looked so spotless it could have just rolled off the assembly line.
“Leaning into the open cockpit it smelled like a brand new car,” Gutridge said.
There was also a “jaw dropping giant scale R/C plane 3W YAK 54 and helicopter demo done by Greg Milosevich drawing oohs and aahs and a standing ovation from the crowd,” Gutridge noted.
Also on hand were some vendors, the Civil Air Patrol, Oakdale Lions Club with a barbecue and representatives of Sierra West Airlines with refreshments and flying-themed crafts for kids.
The next Young Eagles Day at Oakdale Airport is being planned for next summer.