Local pilots pave runway for students’ dreams of flying

Local pilots pave runway for students’ dreams of flying

Matt Musson, 11, who is homeschooled, and 10-year-old Ryson Rocque (in back), a student at Montessori Center School in Goleta, take seats in the cockpit of instructor Jay Bassage’s custom-built plane.

Local pilots pave runway for students’ dreams of flying

By Drew Esnard

A series of three monthly classes enabling students to learn about aviation and aeronautics from local pilots began on Saturday, Feb. 18.

“When the youngsters learn the reality that they have their own fate in their hands, it gives them courage,” said aviation instructor Robert Perry.

“We want to get kids involved with aviation early in life and give them an opportunity to learn that there is nothing so complicated about what we pilots do,” said local pilot and instructor Robert “Captain Bob” Perry. “It really only takes a few minutes to learn (to fly), but it does take a lot of hours to become competent.”

The series, called the Student Aviation Club, serves as a launching pad for local youth aged 8 to 18 who are interested in aviation by engaging them in lessons on aircraft structure, aerodynamics, and aircraft traffic control. Student participants also receive a free instructional flight with a local pilot at a “Young Eagles” event, and each student will become eligible to apply for a scholarship for several hours of flight instruction.

The aviation club is sponsored and led by the Valley Sport Aviators, a local chapter of the national grassroots aviation organization Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) that grew out of the annual Airport Day event.

Over the past three years local students Lily Connolly, Robyn Ribet (pictured) and Liam Edwards have received flight instruction at Santa Ynez Valley Airport in gliders and powered aircraft using these scholarships.

Contributions by sponsors of Airport Day have provided funds to grant the flight scholarships to local students. Over the past three years local students Lily Connolly, Robyn Ribet and Liam Edwards have received flight instruction at Santa Ynez Valley Airport in gliders and powered aircraft using these scholarships.

Airport Day at Santa Ynez Valley Airport will be held this year from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 20. This event features more than two dozen aircraft on display with local pilots explaining how their aircraft work.

The Young Eagles program allows youths to fly for free with a local pilot, and a free hamburger and hot dog barbecue means everyone who comes to Airport Day can enjoy an entire day of aviation for free. The scholarship winner will be announced at Airport Day.

“The future of aviation lies in the youth of today,” said Lloyd Sorenson, president of EAA  No. 491, at the start of class.

There is no cost to students participating in the aviation club. Additional information is available by contacting EAA 491 educational programs coordinator Allen Maris at allenmaris@gmail.com or Airport Day planner Robert “Captain Bob” Perry at CaptainBobsPlaneTalk@gmail.com.   Young Eagle program details may be found at http://eaa.org/youngeagles.