Young Eagles: Students experience aviation in Diamondhead
By Cassandra Favre - Photos by Steve Gibson
Nov 10, 2017, 22:39
The Diamondhead Experimental Aircraft Aviation 479 Diamondhead Chapter of the Young Eagles lets young people experience the world of aviation on the first Saturday of each month.
On the first Saturday of each month, young people can experience the world of aviation with the Diamondhead Experimental Aircraft Aviation 479 Diamondhead Chapter of the Young Eagles.
John Fletcher –– commercial pilot and flight instructor since 1962 – said the national program has existed for the past 10 years and more than three million children have been given the opportunity to fly a plane.
"The idea is to get young people interested in aviation," Fletcher said. "The Diamondhead squadron has also been around for the past 10 years."
The program is free and open to children ages 8-to-17 years old and they can – weather permitting – once a month.
"Since I'm a flight instructor, I let them fly the airplane," Fletcher said.
The type of plane used is a Cessna 172, he said, but participants can also explore a two-passenger World War II observation plane.
Students take off from Diamondhead and fly straight out over of the Gulf, Fletcher said. Then to Pass Christian and near DuPont and back to Diamondhead. The flights last about 15 to 20 minutes.
Usually, there are about 40 to 50 participants, so Fletcher makes the flight multiple times.
Students also learn how to pre-flight the aircraft, Fletcher said. There is a checklist which includes items such as oil, fuel and tire pressure.
"We teach them about safety and that they have to wear seat belts and a shoulder harness," he said. "They also have to keep their eyes open for other aircraft."
Once a year, Fletcher said the program sends about 10 children to an aviation academy at an Air Force Base in Florida.
Children are required to write an essay explaining why they want to go, he said.
"We pay for them and they spend a week there," he said. "Each have their own room and they experience simulators. It's a cool thing."
Fletcher said the group hosts fundraisers to pay for the academy.
The program is free for young adults from any area, Fletcher.
Anyone interested in the program can contact Fletcher at 228-216-1935.