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The chance to soar high above the ground in an airplane is an experience that some people never have.
Young people in Los Alamos, Taos and Española, who have never flown in an airplane, have been afforded the opportunity to take a ride with a licensed pilot, thanks to the Young Eagles Program, a program that introduces children to the world of flight.
Among 40,000 pilots around the world who donate their time and aircraft to the effort is Will Fox of Los Alamos, according to a press release from the Young Eagles Office.
Young Eagles is a program that was started by the Experimental Aircraft Association, which has a local chapter in Los Alamos that goes by the name of the Green Chile Chapter, or Chapter 691.
“I’ve always been interested in building my own airplane. I have an experimental aircraft I built,” Fox said. “The EAA is a great way to meet people who have a lot of experience in building airplanes and in construction methods. They’re a bunch of good people,” he said.
Fox also said he became a flight advisor and a technical councilor in the EAA.
“That’s a role that our EAA Chapter President Jeff Scott used to have,” Fox said of the position as technical councilor. “He talked me into it one day.”
Fox became involved with the Young Eagles program when the local EAA Chapter sent out a request for volunteers.
“The chapter was looking for volunteers, so I volunteered to be a pilot,” Fox said. “A couple years later, I volunteered my wife Barbara to organize the ground crew, who gets the paperwork filled out and entertains the kids. It’s become a family thing,” he explained.
According a press release from the Young Eagles office, Fox has given more than 100 young people a free demonstration plane ride, as part of the Young Eagles program.
He’s modest about his accomplishment however, pointing out that there are other pilots involved in the program who have flown more children than he has.
“I feel kind of undeserving here. There are pilots who have flown a lot more Young Eagles than me. I guess I’d like to say they all deserve recognition because there’s a whole lot of dedicated folks who make an issue to fly every kid who shows up,” Fox said.
“It’s hard to describe how fun it is to give the kids a ride,” Fox explained. “They’re ecstatic when they come back. Most have never been in an airplane before. It’s not uncommon for us to put one (a child) in the seat beside us and give them stick time, guiding them through climbs and descends. There’s quite a bit of interest in sitting in the front seat with the pilot. It’s all kinds of fun,” he said.
One of his favorite memories involves three sisters. Fox said the two older sisters sat in the back, while the youngest of the siblings sat in the front, next to him.
“We flew over their house and when we were coming back, I asked the kids if they wanted to do some loop-de-loops. They asked what a loop-de-loop was and I explained to them that it’s up, down and gentle rolls,” he said.
According to Fox, the two older sisters wanted to try the loop-de-loops, however the youngest one did not.
“After five minutes, she pipes up and she asks what’s a loop-de-loop,” he said. After explaining it to her once more, she agreed to try one. “I did a nice, gentle rollercoaster,” he said.
The youngest sister was so pleased with the result that Fox ended up doing loop-de-loops all the way back to the airport.
Fox said another rewarding aspect of participating in the Young Eagles program is seeing the look on the children’s faces.
“It’s an uplifting experience. We see kids we flew as Young Eagles, who are working on their pilot’s license or becoming commercial pilots,” he said. “It’s a lot like a teacher feels, when you get a new student and see how much they enjoy learning.”
“All pilots in the Young Eagles program explain the safe operation of airplanes and principles of flight before the short trips,” according to information from the Young Eagles Office. “Participating young people become official Young Eagles with the flights, receiving a certificate signed by the pilot and the Young Eagles Chairman Harrison Ford.”
Pilots and participants names are also enrolled in the “World’s Largest Logbook,” on display at the EAA Air Venture Museum in Oshkosh, Wis., and online through the Young Eagles Web site.