By LAURA ROBISON
More than 100 kids got the chance to take off into the wide blue yonder at an Airport Open House held at Perkins Field Airport in Overton on Saturday, Oct. 23.
The Perkins Field Flying Club hosted the event which showcased aircraft of private pilots, a Mercy Air helicopter, and a Las Vegas Metro Police Department (LVMPD) helicopter as well as vehicles from Moapa Valley Fire District, Nevada Highway Patrol and Metro.
Another group in attendance on Saturday were The Ninety-Nines International Organization of Women Pilots, which promotes advancement of aviation through education, scholarships, and mutual support while honoring our unique history and sharing our passion for flight.
But the big crowd pleaser was the Young Eagles Rally which offered free airplane rides to youngsters ages 8-17. A total of 120 kids had registered in advance for the flights. But due to high demand and a large wait list, add-ons were made available. By days end, 16 pilots had given over 150 kids free flights over the Moapa Valley.
Upon arrival, parents filled out paperwork for their kids to fly. Then each child was given a number. Excitement was in the air as each one eagerly waited for his/her number to be called. Volunteers would match a pilot with his passengers, and away they flew.
Flights were generally about 15 minutes long. Upon landing, each child received a certificate signed by the pilot with their name and the name/type of aircraft they had flown in.
Frank Harris, 8, of Henderson said that he was glad to be at the event but stated, “I am scared, nervous and excited all at the same time!”
Las Vegas 8-year-old, Micah Ray was dressed in his pilot’s uniform. He is currently in the Young Eagles Program. “I have loved planes since I was one,” he said. “I will be a pilot when I grow up. That is why I am in pilot school right now. I have been on an airplane lots of times.”
After her flight, Kaylie Freeman, 14, of Logandale stated, “I got a little air sick, but it was cool to be in the plane as we flew over our house.”
The Rotary Club provided and cooked breakfast for the volunteers, with food donated by Mercy Air II. Members of Moapa Valley Fire District cooked and served hamburgers and hot dogs donated by Mercy Air, Las Vegas Metro and NHP.
Overton Power District #5 (OPD5) had a table set up with their drones, and gave away free water bottles and jar openers. OPD5 drone operator Arthur Villezcas explained that a special 107 pilot’s license is required to fly the drones. They are used to inspect power lines and poles and can also be used for search and rescue. They are equipped with an infrared camera and a regular camera.
Members of the Moapa Valley Amateur Radio Club and local R/C pilots were also set up to answer questions about the technology they use for the aviation industry.
Metro Officer Thomas Harris flys his helicopter with pride. He has been a pilot with the organization for three years. He said there are two years of training, doing air support. “But after that, I get to have fun catching bad guys,” he said. “I love my job. Usually when you become a pilot, you stay with that your whole career.”
Harris went on to say that he and his partner are in the air flying for their whole shift except for prep time, eating lunch and storing at end of day.
Former USAF combat pilot Daniel “Taz” Christman displayed his Aerostar Yak-52 airplane at the event. Throughout her life, the Yak-52 has served in the air forces of Armenia, Georgia, Hungary, Lithuania, Russia, Vietnam and a host of other countries in a variety of capacities.
Perkins Field Flying Club charter member Tim DeBerardinis coordinated the event and was extremely pleased with the turnout for the day.
“The volunteers do this to put smiles on kids’ faces,” he said.
The Clark County Department of Aviation gave its full support for the event and gave the pilots a discount on their fuel, DeBerardinis said.
“Each pilot donated their own time, skills and fuel for the event, simply for the love of aviation,” he added.
DeBerardinis said the whole event was geared toward getting kids excited about aviation and to support STEM education.
“Working together we can inspire a younger generation to learn about the science of aviation and educate them about the opportunities available in the aviation industry,” DeBerardinis said. “Donations are accepted and appreciated, which will positively affect the future of aviation; as well as, Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics within our local area”.
Information about the Young Eagles can be found on Facebook.com/EEAYoungEagles.