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Young dreamers fly high with local pilots

Bradley Stever, 8, Brandon Bergeron, 11, and Brendan Robins, 12, ready to take flight with pilot Phil St. Jean.

Bradley Stever, 8, Brandon Bergeron, 11, and Brendan Robins, 12, ready to take flight with pilot Phil St. Jean.


Story and photos by Bill Samuel
For 20 years, the Prince Edward Flying Club has hosted the COPA (Canadian Owners and Pilots Association) for Kids Program to introduce youth ages eight through 17 to the joys of flight – free of charge.

Enthusiasm for flying is the main reason the PEFC is in existence and the members are hoping to instill the joy into each of the young participants – 20 of them at Saturday’s event.

Club president Dave Main was introduced to flying in Burlington at the age of 17. A high school buddy needed a ride to an information session about flying and Dave obliged him. His buddy wasn’t interested in signing up, but Dave was hooked. Later when he went on to earn his commercial pilots licence he went on to fly for Air Canada for 37 years.

“This (small aircraft) is where the fun of flying is,” said Main. “Everybody involved in aviation is so enthusiastic.”

The flying club was formed in 1953 at Camp Picton (later renamed CFB Picton) and took over operation of the airport. COPA had its first meeting in Kingston the same year. Prince Edward Flying Club is part of COPA Flight 53, a three-club partnership that includes the Belleville Flying Club, and Oak Hills Flying Club in Stirling.

The airport is a “Prior Permission Required” airport and the Air Cadets 851 Prince Edward Squadron also use it each summer for glider training as do cadets with the Central Region Gliding School at 8 Wing Trenton.

The original concept of introducing youth to flying was started in 1992, by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EEA) also formed in 1953, based now in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Ground school instructor Chris Willson, of Cressy.

Ground school instructor Chris Willson, of Cressy.

Following a 45-minute ground school, covering the basic fundamentals of flight and aircraft operation each youngster was taken on a 15-minute flight over the southern portion of Prince Edward County. Depending on the aircraft they were assigned to, as many as three went up at a time. Five pilots were available with their planes to take their young charges into the sky.

One of the lucky pilots on Saturday was Phil St. Jean (Cressy-Pembroke) with his Cessna Silver Eagle. Phil’s interest in aviation began at a young age when his father was in the RCAF. Phil trained as pilot in Buttonville, north of Toronto, and flies for business purposes between his home and Wisconsin.

“Passing on knowledge to future generations is a gift,” said St. Jean. “It is a thrill for me to be able to share my joy of flying with these youngsters.”

His first passengers of the morning were Bradley Stever, 8, of Demorestville; Brandon Bergeron, 11, of Belleville and Brendan Robins, 12, of Bowmanville.

There are options available for individuals to get their wings – including Air Cadets, community colleges, and many flying clubs (not PEFC) that offer training.

Cessna Silver Eagle taking off at PEFC.

Cessna Silver Eagle taking off at PEFC.

Aerial picture at 3,000 ft of Picton Airport taken by Jason Leblanc from a Cessna.

Aerial picture at 3,000 ft of Picton Airport taken by Jason Leblanc from a Cessna.

 

 

 

 

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