Fathers Day Fly-In helps community experience the joy of flight

A young aviation enthusiast carefully inspects aircraft on the ground Saturday at the Twin Bridges Airport during the 2012 Fathers Day Fly-In. Ben Coulter / The Madisonian.

TWIN BRIDGES – Aviation enthusiasts young and old gathered at the Twin Bridges airport this weekend for the 9th Annual Father’s Day Fly-In this weekend, taking in the sights and sounds of the world of aviation as the brilliant sunshine warmed the runway.

Small-aircraft pilots from across the region dropped in on the airport to participate in the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles Program, which encourages kids age 8 to 17 to take interest in flying by offering them a free flight in a general aviation airplane.

While the kids who came out eagerly displayed their interest, the pilots who volunteered their time to take them up in the air were just as happy to share their knowledge with the Young Eagles.

Ruby Valley Aviation mechanic Norman Wright enjoyed the scene from the shade of the main hangar on Saturday, and reflected on the unique opportunity the weekend presents for kids to learn about aviation.

“I hate to say it, but commercial airlines are not much more than a glorified bus,” Wright said. “This actually lets them get out and get a real feel of what aviation is about. It is a totally different experience between a general aviation aircraft and a commercial airliner.”

Both Saturday and Sunday were filled with fun activities for kids, parents and pilots, including a low-altitude ping pong ball drop where a plane dumped a load of ping pong balls for the kids to collect and cash in for prizes. Pilot games on Sunday included 55-gallon drum bowling and flour sack bombing runs following a pancake breakfast put on by the Rotary Club. While the weekend provided more than enough entertainment for both spectators and participants alike, Write noted that its also about promoting community involvement with the local airport and aviation community.

“We try to provide some sort of aviation educational event during the weekend as well,” he said.

Flight enthusiasts also enjoyed presentations by representatives from Malmstrom Air Force Base and the Mission Aviation Fellowship.

And as for who had more fun, the kids or the pilots, it was hard to tell just by looking. Office Manager Kendra Horn explained that it’s a little bit of both.

“I’d say the kids get a bigger kick out of it, and then of course that rewards the pilots because they like to see that they’re doing a good thing for kids,” she said.

As the planes came and went the sense of community could be felt in the air, and when the kids returned to parents on the ground, their smiles shown as brilliantly as the summer sun.

While this might not have been Norman Wright’s first fly-in, he certainly recognized the pure joy on the kid’s faces as they were offered the chance to fly through the air.

“If a person doesn’t attend an event like this, most people will never have an opportunity to go up in a small aircraft and get to fly,” Wright said. “And hopefully it will also give them an understanding that there is the possibility for them to do this themselves.”

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