The clouds blew away and the sun shone in time for Saturday morning’s third annual COPA for Kids event, held at the MNRF hangar beside the Sault Ste. Marie Airport.
The event, designed to introduce young people to the thrill of flight, was a success.
220 children and youth from eight to 17 years of age, who had been pre-registered by their parents on the COPA Flight 66 website got the chance for a free flight aboard small airplanes.
Up to seven pilots were anticipated to offer free flights for the youngsters, the event organized by COPA Flight 66, which is the Sault chapter of a larger pilots organization.
“I saw lots of cars and houses, and the cars looked teeny weeny,” said eight-year-old Peyton Berto, who said she enjoyed looking down on the Sault from the air.
“It was fun. I like landing and takeoff, those are my favourite parts. I liked sightseeing, seeing the International Bridge and a couple of other airports nearby. I liked learning about air speed and altitude,” said Adam Gibson, 13.
“A pilot is what I want to be,” said Adam, whose mother added he has had that dream since he was four.
“I got to see lots of buildings (from the air)…the cars looked really little from way up high,” said eight-year-old Colton McBride, who flew for the first time and said he would do it again.
Pre-registered children and youth experienced:
- A chance to examine a working aircraft close up on the ground (static display)
- A short ground school session conducted by a pilot who explained what the various parts of an aircraft are, what they do, and answered questions about aviation and flying
- A walk around, to show them how pilots prepare for each flight, and were briefed on the safety aspects of their flight
- The 20-minute flight itself, in which they were able to observe all the facets of flight, including start-up, take-off, cruising, landing and shut-down.
Sault Search and Rescue volunteers were on hand to make sure kids got on and off the planes safely.
Model plane enthusiasts were also at Saturday’s event to show off their much smaller (but still very cool) planes, and as an added treat, kids were also shown one of the airport’s fire trucks.
Official start time was 9 a.m., with the last round of flights scheduled for 1 p.m., the event wrapping up around 2 p.m.
To minimize the apprehension some children might feel about flying in an airplane for the first time, pilots encouraged them to look down and try to count, for example, how many homes had swimming pools in the backyard as they looked down from the planes to the city below.
Many of the youngsters tend to walk away from the experience pumped, wanting to be either civil or military pilots, said a COPA organizer.
The Canadian Owners Pilot’s Association (COPA) Flight 66 is a group of Sault and area pilots and flight enthusiasts, which forms the local chapter of the Canadian Owners Pilot’s Association.
Flight 66 began in Sault Ste. Marie in 1973 and met at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) hangar (now the Bushplane Museum's home), but the local chapter fizzled out in the late 1970s.
It successfully revived in 2015.
Sault pilot Terry Mortimore currently serves as COPA Flight 66 captain (president).