Free airplane rides for kids at Madison County Airport

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Rick Hunt (left), a pilot and member of Chapter 9 of the Experimental Aircraft Association, helps George Bernard of Upper Arlington check in at a Young Eagles Rally at Madison County Airport. Bernard’s mother, Linda, is pictured on the right. Hunt has provided more than 1,000 free rides to youths ages 8 to 17 through the Young Eagles Rally program. Bernard is now taking flying lessons at the Ohio State University Airport in Columbus and soloed an airplane at 16 years old. The next Young Eagles Rally is set for June 26 at Madison County Airport.

(Posted June 17, 2021)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Youths ages 8 to 17 have an opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of London and the surrounding area at the Young Eagles Rally set for June 26 at Madison County Airport.

Chapter 9 of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is offering free airplane rides. Pre-registration is available at https://chapters.eaa.org/eaa9/young-eagles. Time slots are 9 to 11 a.m. and 11 a.m. to noon. Walk-ups are welcome, as well. A parent must be on hand to sign off on paperwork.

Rides typically last 15 to 20 minutes and run from London to Springfield to South Charleston before heading back to London where the planes fly over downtown London, the London City Schools campus, and the grounds of the Farm Science Review before landing back at the airport.

“During the flight, kids may get the chance to handle the controls,” said Darren Schehl, EAA 9 president.

Founded in 1992, the purpose of the Young Eagles program is to give youths the chance to fly in a general aviation airplane, educate them about careers in aviation, and generally inspire them when it comes to the world of aviation.

To date, EAA 9 has provided rides to 8,498 children. Nationwide, EAA has flown more than 2 million youths. The all-volunteer group is made up of professional and private pilots.

“One of our members has done over 1,200 rides himself and another has done 1,000,” said Schehl, who has been a licensed pilot since 1992. “One day, I gave 30 kids a ride. Of the 30, 20 had never been off the ground ever in any kind of airplane.”

EAA 9 usually holds six Young Eagles rallies each year–two each at the Madison County Airport and two each at Bolton Field and the Ohio State University Airport in Columbus. This year’s rallies at the OSU Airport are on hold due to the university’s current policies regarding COVID-19.

The last time the chapter held a rally at the Madison County Airport, they brought five planes with them. Depending on the turnout, they take one to three youths up at a time. Following the June 26 event in London, the group’s next rally is set for July 10 at Bolton Field.

Visit https://chapters.eaa.org/eaa9 to learn more about EAA 9 and the Young Eagles program.

Madison County Airport is located at 1281 U.S. Route 40, London.

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