May 4th “Young Eagles” Fly-in a Huge Success at Moore County Airport
Hundreds of Kids Received Free Airplane Rides
Saturday, May 4th, 2019 – the Pinehurst skies were cloudy and dim but there was a massive throng of youngsters at the Moore County Airport who were energized, lively and bright. They had arrived at the airport hoping to participate in the Spring Young Eagles fly-in. The pressure was on: low clouds made flying difficult so everyone sat on the ground, waiting for the skies to clear. About 10 am the clouds thinned and within minutes, like hounds after a fox, the first planes raced down the runway and started the most successful Young Eagles event in memory.
“This was an amazing day,” reported a weary Jim Murray, Young Eagles project coordinator. “I think this will go down as our biggest and best fly-in in a long time, and I’ve been doing them for more than a decade.”
The final tally is impressive. Fourteen volunteer pilots flew 198 kids on 74 flights. The children were from all across Moore County, including Seven Lakes, Whispering Pines, Robbins, Pinehurst, Taylortown, Southern Pines, Scotland County, Greensboro and two kids from Steamboat Springs CO who flew with Don Piotras. The typical flight lasts 20-30 minutes and includes tours of Carthage, Pinehurst and Southern Pines.
“You can’t imagine how much fun this is, not just for the pilots and the kids but for the parents and the folks at the airport, too,” said Ron Maness, the airport manager and a pilot himself. “When you see the kids coming off the airplanes literally bursting with smiles and excitement, you know it’s all worthwhile.”
Jim Wiltjer is a retired Pan American Airlines captain who manages the ground operations for each Young Eagles event. “The hour weather delay was hard on everybody,” he explained. “Some families even brought kids who were too young for a ride so those kids had to wait and weren’t even rewarded with a flight. But it’s all about safety and everybody was very patient. They just took it in stride.”
One new activity was a charity putting contest on the new putting green in front of the airport. The contest was sponsored by Cooper Ford of Carthage, along Drop Zone and City Barber also of Carthage. Robert’s Golf and Southeastern Tool and Die also made important contributions. The proceeds from the putting contest will be used to help maintain the putting green — a potent symbol at “the Home of American Golf” — and also to send one lucky young person to the huge aviation summer camp at Oshkosh, Wisconsin in July.
The contestants were clustered by age. Each group had two sections, a five-hole group and a ten-hole group for a total of twelve winners. The youngest winner was Matthew Howell, who is all of four years old.
Dan Maples, a local golf course designer, supervised the putting contest and was pleased with what he saw. “There were lots of parents spending quality time with their kids. Lots of smiles and cheers,” he said.
The Moore County Airport and the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter #1220 sponsor the Young Eagle fly-ins twice each year. The Airport itself donated about $1,000 in aviation fuel. Boy Scout Troop 810 was on hand cooking burgers and hot dogs. The local Civil Air Patrol detachment had a nice display of their program. Total Flight Solutions, the flight school at the Moore County Airport, introduced themselves to teenagers interested in aviation. The pilots themselves are volunteers and donate their time and their airplanes. The rides are completely free and open to all children.
“I’m particularly impressed with the AFJROTC cadets from Pinecrest High School,” Maness added. “They staff the welcome desk, answer questions, match the passengers to the airplanes, and handle the permission slips. It’s a complicated job with a lot of moving parts, and we couldn’t operate an event like this without them.” Jim Murray agreed, saying “They did an outstanding job. It’s also great to see the older cadets passing along their procedures and knowledge from one class on to the next.”
To arrange 74 flights in one morning is an accomplishment which amazes everybody. Local businessman Dick Harpster in his “James Bond” Velocity airplane tied with local obstetrician Dr. Barry Buechle in his Cirrus SR20 for the top honors, flying 21 kids each. Instructor pilot Dylan Barreras, who works for Total Flight Solutions squeezed 19 kids into his cramped Cessna 172. Three pilots each racked up 18 rides: Jim Truemper in his sleek Cirrus SR22, Terry Riney in his brilliantly repainted Cessna 210, and the always-smiling Mark “Flip” Spencer in his Piper PA-32. Dr. Larry Gebler flew 17 children in his elegant Cessna Cardinal, while Jan Squillace came down from Sanford and carried 15 kids in her Cirrus SR22. New to Young Eagles was local pilot Eric Eshelman who took 15 kids around the patch in his Piper Arrow. Don Poitras used his stately Beech Sundowner to give rides to 12 children and Mike Jones carried nine in his Cessna 210.
Three pilots had two-seat airplanes. Jim Murray used a borrowed RV- 12 to carry six, Andy Wegrzyn brought a bright red RV- 6 to the party and flew another six, and Jim Fisher flew three kids in his elegant Piper Sport.
Jim Murray laughs about flying the smaller planes. “The single-seat guys don’t rack up much in numbers but the kids are really the center of attention, no back seaters!”
For many children and even their parents, the Young Eagles program may be their first exposure to airplanes; may be the first time they have ever been to an airport. The most popular site-seeing destinations are Pinecrest High School, Walmart and McDonald’s.
Young Eagles Website
Founded in 1992, the Young Eagles program has dedicated nearly 25 years to giving youth ages 8–17 their first free ride in an airplane. It’s the only program of its kind, with the sole mission to introduce and inspire kids in the world of aviation. Today, the Young Eagles program has flown over 2 million kids with the help of EAA’s network of volunteer pilots and ground volunteers. We reached our goal and celebrated the 2 millionth Young Eagle flown during AirVenture Oshkosh 2016. Join us in offering every child, tween, and teen the chance to experience the Spirit of AviationTM.