Sydney Decker, 15, from Olathe; Andrew Hauerland, from Liberty, Mo; Sophia Beaumont, 9, from Olathe pictured here with their pilot Mark Boguski, just before the group took off for their flight at the Youmng Eagles event on March 10 at Gardner Municipal Airport. Staff photo by Rick Poppitz

Andrew Hauerland, from Liberty, Mo, with pilot Mark Boguski, after receiving his Young Eagles certificate commemorating his first flight in a small plane. Staff photo by Rick Poppitz

Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
Visitors from around the area came to Gardner Municipal Airport on March 10 for a Young Eagles event hosted by Vintage Aircraft Association Chapter 16 (VAA16).
The Young Eagles program offers free plane rides for kids between the ages of 8 and 17. The program’s sole mission to introduce youth to the world of aviation and inspire them to learn more about flying.
In conjunction with Women In Aviation week, the March 10 event made a special effort to invite girls.
Brian Plank, VAA16 event coordinator, said sponsors’ help in promoting the event brought in more kids from a wider area than usual, and 75 per cent of the registrants this time were girls.
“This is something we like to see, because girls are just as capable to be pilots, engineers, mathematicians as the guys are,” said Plank.
Over 90 area youths were provided with their first experience flying in a small aircraft on Saturday.
Plank says it’s a phenomenal program that allows kids to see if aviation interests them. If aviation does interest them, the program provides tangible ways to help those who want to continue towards a pilot’s license or a career in aviation.
After their flight, kids get a debriefing and a Young Eagles certificate commemorating their first flight.
That certificate also earns youngsters for up to $400 in discounts, credit or cost reimbursements for further schooling and tests that are the first steps towards pursuing a pilot’s license.
“The next step is to find an and a lot of flight schools will do a free introductory lesson for kids who have gone through the Young Eagles program,” said Plank.
For many, it will be the start of their journey to becoming a pilot, aircraft mechanic, air traffic controller, or many other career possibilities.
There are plenty more opportunities for kids to fly free with Young Eagles in 2018, with events scheduled at GMA for April 7, May 5, June 2, August 4 and October 6.
The event is staffed entirely by volunteers, without whom it would not happen, and that includes people doing numerous jobs, from the ground crew directing traffic, to pancake flippers cooking breakfast, to event coordinators managing the registrations, to the pilots who donate their time, planes and fuel for the day.
Gardner Municipal Airport is the home airport of the Vintage Aircraft Association Chapter 16 (VAA16), “Flatland Flyers”. VAA16 is for anyone who admires and appreciates vintage aircraft.  The club has been promoting aviation in the greater Kansas City area since 1986.