On April 30, 2011 the Recreational Aviation Foundation’s (RAF) Vice President, Dan Prill was banished to his shop and hangar for the day while his wife Margie Prill had an open house at their residence in Sand Coulee, MT. About mid-afternoon Dan got a call from Margie asking if one of her friends 3 year old boy come look at the airplanes. Ben Halko visited the hangar and took to the airplanes as if he knew all about flying. Ben got to “zoom” around Dan’s hangar in both his Super Cub and his Cessna 185. For 15 minutes Dan and Ben had a great time with the airplanes. It turns out that Ben’s grandfather Tim also has an airplane, a Piper Comanche, and will be visiting next week for Ben’s third birthday.
So what does this have to do with Backcountry Aviation and Aviation in general? The aging pilot community is not being replaced as fast as it needs to be. The sooner we can get young boys and girls interested in airplanes and flying the better off the aviation community will be. This is why the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles Program and Craig Fuller’s Airplane Owners and Pilots Association campaign to “Get Engaged with GA” is so important. Ben’s family, including aunts, uncles and cousins, are all outdoor people. They love to hunt, fish, camp, and hike. All grew up in Montana where that heritage is vastly important. Introducing Ben and others like him to your airplanes and hangars at a young age will certainly help the aviation community in the long run. I hope I can be there when Ben’s grandfather give’s him his first airplane ride. Ben seemed to be a natural, grabbing the stick in the Super Cub, and the throttle in the C185. No doubt he will take to the skies one day. I know Ben will grow up enjoying the outdoors and appreciating the backcountry. One day I hope to see him land his own airplane at a Backcountry Airstrip such as Russian Flat. It is why the Recreational Aviation Foundation does what it does, it saves Backcountry Airstrips for kids like Ben, our future. As RAF President John McKenna puts it, “It is another piece of the puzzle to make this whole thing work.”
So go out, Get Engaged in GA, give a Young Eagle a ride or just invite a young boy or girl to your hangar. It is all fun and it is why we do what we do.
Submitted on May 1, 2011.