Free plane rides intended to encourage aviation careers

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Dozens of kids got to go for a free ride in an airplane at Smith Field Airport Saturday.

Four times a year the Fort Wayne chapter of the Young Eagles program gives kids ages eight to 17 free plane rides. The number of pilots is decreasing and the idea behind the program is to get kids interested in aviation careers.

“It gives a whole different perspective on what the world looks like. They can see the bigger picture. We haven’t had anyone come back who didn’t love it. Even those skeptical of it at first, they come back with the biggest smiles,” Laramie Resler, the Young Eagles coordinator, said.

Brian Olena, the manager of the Young Eagles program for the Experimental Aircraft Association, flew in from Wisconsin for the event.

“All the people who fly here are volunteers. Every one of them. They don’t get paid. They do their own time, own fuel and own planes. As a national program, we provide insurance support and documents and organize a national program, but about 6,000 pilots a year fly nearly 80,000 kids a year,” Olena said.

Around 900 Young Eagles chapters do rallies like this around the country.

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