Sowing the seeds to grow the next generation of pilots

You don’t have to own an airplane to get children involved in aviation. There are a multitude of things you can do to encourage their interest without breaking the bank.

AGES 4 TO 7

Read them stories about aviation. There are many good children’s books that run the gamut from a child’s first flight on an airliner to the general aviation picture book classic “What’s a Piper Cub?”

Allow them to watch animated aviation-oriented television programs and videos. They are entertaining, and often the story line has a moral, such as “take responsibility for your actions.”

Plush airplane toys are good, too, as they help a child act out what they see in the videos.

Take day trips to GA airports or aviation museums. Many museums have discount days and family membership rates. The larger ones also have regularly scheduled children’s activities that can range from building paper airplanes to story time. Visit an airport during an open house or an air show. Children particularly enjoy touring World War II era bombers with Plexiglas noses and open waist gunner positions.

AGES 8 TO 12

Get your child involved in model building. Models range in complexity from snap together to those requiring glue and adult supervision. The price of kits varies from about $10 all the way to triple digits, but you needn’t make a large investment. Inexpensive kits can be found at most garage sales and swap meets, although many may be partially assembled and the directions may be missing. This can be a bonus because reverse-engineering the models can be more fun than putting them together from plans — plus you don’t feel too bad when the models are destroyed during rigorous test flights.

Collecting diecast models, postcards or stamps is another way to encourage your child’s interest. Relatively inexpensive and easy to store, these offer a chance for a child to learn more about specific models of aircraft. The best part is that if in a few years the kid loses interest in aviation — perish the thought — you can sell these items on eBay.

How about kite building? It’s a great way to learn about geometry, weight and balance and aerodynamics.

YOUNG EAGLES

EAA members volunteer their time and airplanes to give short airplane rides to kids between the ages of 8 and 17.

Youngsters also are given information about careers such as air traffic control, mechanics, airport operations and so on.

For more information: 877-806-8902 or YoungEagles.org

AGES 12 TO 21

If your child likes to play video games that involve aviation, try prying the control stick out of his or her hand and getting them into a real airplane. Many FBOs and flight schools offer introductory flight gift certificates.

The Be A Pilot program (BeAPilot.com) also provides links to introduce young people (and not so young people) to flying.

If you are a pilot, teach your child basic navigation skills and radio use and have them accompany you on $100 hamburger flights. Use longer trips as incentives for better report cards, keeping their room clean, mowing the lawn, etc.

Scouting is a great way to learn about aviation (see story on Page 34). Another great organization is the Civil Air Patrol.

An auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, the CAP cadet program is open to boys and girls from sixth grade on up. Cadets learn about aerospace, search and rescue and those who are old enough to legally fly solo can learn to fly.

Unit activities include helping out at air shows, county fairs or other public events.

Some units are called upon in times of emergency, such as forest fires, floods or hurricanes.

For more information: 800-FLY-2338 (800-359-2338).

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