As any general aviation pilot can tell you, building the pilot population is a critical issue for our future. Some of the best ways to do that are to reach outside the aviation community and to educate and inspire children about the wonder of flight. The Warrington Flying Club based at Doylestown Airport (KDYL), about 30 miles north of Philadelphia is doing just that.
When the Cub Scouts of Troop 6 were selling bags of flavored popcorn as part of their annual fundraiser, they knew their efforts would help them buy uniforms and go camping. But none of them could have imagined the snacks would help them take flight.
Scoutmaster Henry Laskowski, who joined the Warrington Flying Club a couple of years ago, got the idea to reward his son Tyler’s Webelos Den for their sales efforts by taking them flying. Last year, Henry and one of the club’s flight instructors, Michael Reichert, brought the scouts to the airport and taught them about the parts of an airplane. They allowed the scouts to climb in the club’s Cessna 172 with a Garman G-1000 panel and power it up so they could see how the avionics work.
“I like to give the kids hands-on things to do,” Henry said. “We had about 10 boys come and had the 172 opened up and fired up the glass cockpit. We showed them all around the airplane and I did a demonstration on how an airplane flies, and we did a paper airplane contest.”
This year, Henry got the idea to take the scouts flying and reward the top popcorn salesman in each den with a ride in the co-pilots seat. “It was a picture perfect day. We took sets of three in the 182 and Mike flew them as I briefed them in the hangar. I showed them the Unicom and weather and ForeFlight on my iPad,” Henry said.
Creating A Plan for the Event
To ensure the event’s success, Henry and Mike spent a little time planning the day’s activities. They created a schedule, giving each of the 15 scouts a time slot to arrive at the airport. The time slots were spaced out in 30-minute increments so the parents and children didn’t have to wait long to fly. Henry also assigned seats before the flight so each scout knew where they would be sitting, preventing any competition for a preferred seat. They also had the parents sign a waiver drafted by one of the flying club members who is an attorney.
Mike took the scouts on a 20-minute flight over the Delaware River, Lake Nockamixon and town. “We tried to pick out where everybody lived and fly by their houses,” Mike said. “A lot of them it was their first ride and they all did really well. Everybody was amazed at how small everything looked.”
“I got so much reaction from the parents later on,” Henry said. “Some of the kids said it was the best day of their lives. When you hear something like that from a 10-year-old, it makes you smile.”
Once Tyler and the other Webelos move up to the Boy Scouts, Henry plans to teach the aviation merit badge with the help of other club members. “The members are really good as to volunteering their time.”
He would like to get the scouts even more involved by inviting them to participate in the club’s plane washes and offer them all the opportunity to go flying and to pursue it further.
“It’s nice to get the kids started young, to get aviation in their minds, and plant that seed and maybe it will takeoff later,” Henry said. “I think some of the kids, when they get older might turn out be pilots, and that’s what we need right now. With the cost of flying, flying clubs bring that down to a reasonable level, we fly quality planes, and help get the family involved.”
The Warrington Flying Club was formed in 1941 and is based at Doylestown Airport (KDYL). It owns two aircraft, a 2006 Cessna 172 and a 2005 Cessna 182, both with Garmin G-1000 panels. Membership is capped at 20, and ranges from low time VFR pilots to instructors who train club members working on IFR or commercial ratings. For more information go to http://www.warringtonflyingclub.org.