Young fliers take off

June 22, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - Eight-year-old Bryan Gembe knelt down and watched intently as a pilot performed a preflight check on a single-engine airplane Saturday at Hagerstown Regional Airport.

One day, Bryan said, he wants to be a pilot in the U.S. Air Force.

"I'm excited to fly," Bryan said. "I just like to be in the air."

Bryan and about 45 other children from the Tri-State area gathered Saturday at the airport to participate in the Experimental Aircraft Association's Young Eagles Celebration, an international program that was created in 1992 to introduce young people to the wonders of flight. As part of the program, local pilots donated their time and aircraft to give children a free 20-minute flight over Washington County.

"It was awesome," Bryan said as he re-entered the airport terminal after landing. "I want to fly now more than ever."

Bryan's father, Mark Armstrong, said he found out about the event early Saturday and immediately drove his son to the airport.


"Bryan always wanted to park by the airport and watch planes take off and land," Armstrong said. "This is really nice for these people to be doing this for these kids."

Bob Scott, a Young Eagles coordinator, gave a lot of credit for the program's success to the dedication of the pilots. Besides donating their time and aircraft, they also pay for the fuel, which isn't cheap by today's standards. Gasoline to run the airplanes sells for about $5.30 per gallon, he said. The pilots burn about 10 gallons per hour.

But in the long run, he said the enjoyment of the program far outweighs the cost.

"The feeling you get inside when you see a child grinning ear-to-ear lets you know it's worthwhile," Scott said. "It's just one of these things you start doing and realize what you're doing for the next generation."

Scott said the program is offered several times throughout the year at airports all over the world.

According to the Young Eagles' Web site, almost 1.5 million children between the ages of 8 and 17 have received free flights worldwide since the program's inception. The program is offered in all 50 states.

For more information

To learn more about the Experimental Aircraft Association's Young Eagles program, go to

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