Canadian pilot group reaches kids one flight at a time

May 13, 2010

It may be the first International Learn to Fly Day, but it’s the twenty-eighth annual event for one group of Canadian pilots who provide introductory rides to local Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations.

Flight 28, a chapter of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association at Burlington Airpark outside of Toronto, will host up to 100 participants May 15 for its annual Big Brothers Big Sisters airlift. This year’s event will be conducted under the COPA For Kids program, the Canadian counterpart to the Young Eagles, which was founded last year.

COPA Flight 28 members donate their time and aircraft to take children up flying at events each year; in the past, 100 to 250 participants have attended the one-day Big Brothers Big Sisters event. Each ride consists of a pre-flight briefing, a 20-to-30 minute flight where the little brothers and little sisters are encouraged to try the controls of the aircraft, and a post-flight debriefing, said COPA Flight 28’s Jan Slavik. The young participants receive COPA for Kids certificates.

“The airlifts are very popular with the kids—and the experience does stay with them,” Slavik said in an e-mail. “We have seen some come back a few years later to start training for their aviation careers.” The flights give an opportunity to a group of kids that, in many cases, might not otherwise have a chance to fly, he added.

The chapter has been active in the greater Toronto area for 30 years and will be conducting additional COPA for Kids airlifts and other events aimed at promoting general aviation during the year. It also awards annual scholarships to local young people pursuing aviation careers.