I remember when I was a child, about six years old my father first exposed me to airplanes and aviation. I knew of airplanes as those magnificent silver objects streaking across the sky leaving the beautiful fluffy trails for miles. Even while riding in the car in the back seat, I would watch out the windows and soon I would spot one of the long white trails, my eyes would know to follow and soon the trails would lead me to the beautiful speeding silver rockets with wings. I would follow the planes with such intensity as to contort and bend my little body, crawling into the back window if needed to watch the wonderful speeding jets as they streak across the clear blue skies. My mother would reach back and grab my feet and pull me back to the seat scolding me good for crawling up into the back window. I would wait, knowing soon I would see another and the temptation would over take me, then back up in the window I would be.
One day my father came home from work with a little balsa wood plane, you know, the ones with the rubber band wind up propellers and plastic wheels and wire gear struts. We put the little plane together as he explained in simple terms thrust, drag and lift. He explained what makes an airplane turn and go up and down. I remember asking many questions as children will do and he would answer as best he knew how.
I had many flight hours with those little planes, occasionally crashing or becoming lodged in the large trees around our house, to high to be saved. Many times my little planes would lose power and end up making emergency landings on the roof of my house and I would wait impatiently for my father to get home and climb up on the roof to rescue me and my plane as I explained my engine failure. I lost so many of those little planes as I was learning to fly them do to my lack of experience. My father new so well how I loved airplanes and flying and without fail I always had a replacement the next day after their loss or destruction. I lost so many, that later I was happy to find out they only cost a quarter, and we did not have much money but my dad always found a way and the time to replace my airplane losses.
My father could not own an airplane or did not even know any pilots or aircraft owners, but he did the best he could do exposing me to aviation with those little balsa planes because he could see my love for airplanes early on in my life and I will never forget that about him and the exposure he gave me to aviation.
So now that I myself own an airplane, I am committed to use it every chance I get to teach, not just young children but anyone who desires to learn about airplanes and aviation. Pilots and aircraft owners need to commit to keeping general aviation alive and always do everything we can to lobby and help bring the cost of learning to fly, owning and operating aircraft to a reasonable level to allow anyone who so desires, to be involved in aviation. Get involved in Young Eagles, contact your local schools and offer an hour of your time for a class field trip to the airport to talk about, and show an airplane to the young people. I get people every day that stop and want to look at my airplane and 90% of the time they have their small children with them and I will always spend an hour talking about airplanes, letting them sit in the cockpit, showing all the instruments, children love this and the smiles I see every time show that. I challenge every pilot and aircraft owner over the next year to spend one hour with some young people and expose them to aviation.