For the past 20 years, off and on, the local EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) Chapter 90 has been participating in the national Young Eagles Day event at the Oakdale Municipal Airport, Dan Donnelly Field, sending kids 8 years and older into the sky in the hopes of sparking a love for aviation.
This year, the event held Saturday, Oct. 21, was no exception as kids of varying ages took to the sky for a fun and safe 10-minute flight around the surrounding area.
Dennis Bailey, local chapter club president, said the opportunity to introduce the next generation to the wonders of aviation is part of the fun.
“We love interacting with the kids and exposing them to aviation,” he said. “All of us have a love and passion for aviation. Doing this for the kids really makes our day.”
Three pilots volunteered their time and skill to fly the kids around, answering questions and sharing a little about why aviation is so special to them.
For ardent supporters of experimental aircraft aviation, municipal airports such as Oakdale are integral to keeping the love alive as it’s near to impossible for kids to experience the fun of aviation at larger airports due to stringent security protocols.
And the industry is suffering, according to Carl Inderbitzin.
“There’s an absolute shortage of commercial airline pilots,” Inderbitzin shared.
Since its inception, throughout the United States, the Young Eagle program has logged 1.5 million flight experiences with all the pilots volunteering their time and aircraft to make the program a success.
Escalon resident Cesar Oliva brought his two young sons, Emilian and Armand to Donnelly Field for their first flights, saying the experience was exciting for both boys.
“A friend let me know about the event,” Oliva said. “I think it’s great for the kids. They both really liked it.”
Curtis Haney, a commercial airline pilot who brought his kids to enjoy the event, said the spark for his future career started with flying small planes right there at the Oakdale Municipal Airport.
“This is where my love of aviation started,” Haney said.