A million kids have gotten free airplane rides, and yours could be next. Tim Bush runs the “Young Eagles” program at the Cedar Rapids branch of the Experimental Aircraft Association, and Bush says E-A-A began the program a over decade ago. Nationwide and locally, members provide free airplane rides to kids age 8-17 to give them “a taste of what it’s all about” according to Bush. While the E-A-A was founded by pilots interested in building their own planes, today it’s expanded to be a source of information and support for all kinds of pilots, including the nation’s biggest annual airshow at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Bush explains anyone who’s earned the private pilot certificate can join E-A-A and be part of the Young Eagles program. All you need is to be a pilot and an E-A-A member, and there’s no requirement for special certification or even airplane ownership — Bush himself for years was one member of the Rockwell Flying Club at the local airport, and gave rides in the club plane. Bush says the trip’s a learning experience for every kid. He says you show them the plane and make them part of the routine preflight inspection, and in the air explain the instruments and “give them a little stick time” to get a feel for it. The whole experience comes at absolutely no charge. Bush says the pilots do it out of the goodness of their hearts, because they love flying so much they want to share the experience. If there’s room in the small plane, many pilots will invite a passenger’s parents to come along for the ride, too. When he brings a parent along, Bush says they enjoy it and some have even become student pilots of his. Bush works at Rockwell Collins but as a sideline is also a flight instructor. The national E-A-A hoped to give rides to one-million kids by the December 17th 100-year anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ historic flight, and reached that goal early, last month.
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