Despite gray, overcast skies and heavy rain, a small crowd gathered for the annual Maryville Fly-In at the Northwest Missouri Regional Airport Sept. 29.
The yearly fundraising event included a barbeque lunch for purchase, a motorcycle show, a raffle and a flight simulator. Serving as the main attraction, a few small aircrafts from other regional airports flew in when the sky began to clear up in the afternoon.
The day was organized in support of the Young Eagles program, which provides children ages eight to 17 the opportunity to learn to fly small planes.
Through the program, Young Eagles learn basic operation of a plane through classroom and hands-on experience at the NWMRA. Upon completion of the course, they receive a “Sporty’s Pilot Code,” an access code to a site containing test questions and training modules that help further their aviation education.
Young Eagles instructor Doug Medsker said the program allows the older generation of pilots to instill a love for flying in the youth.
“We take them on their first flight, about a 20 minute experience with one of the instructors, where they get to take the controls and know what it’s like to be up there,” Medsker said. “You always remember that first flight.”
The event lasted from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but planes scheduled to arrive earlier in the day had to delay or cancel flight plans to the airport.
Medsker said the turnout was good in spite of the weather, with four planes and enough visitors to still raise money at the day’s events. Though visitors could no longer pay for a short ride in a plane as advertised, they were able to participate in a flight simulator, where people could receive crash-course on flying.
Michael Rogers, an associate professor teaching in the computer science and information systems at Northwest is a pilot and member of the airport. He said it was not a good day for the public to go on flights.
“On days like today, we can get a lot of turbulence, which in a small plane can be frightening,” Rogers said. “We have a lot of resources to help us determine whether it will be safe or not, such as an app that shows specific storm cells and up-to-the-minute forecasting.”
The NWMRA covers an area of 171 acres and has a 4,600 foot paved runway. The airport terminal building is available for use by both pilots and the general public, and it is where the Young Eagles complete coursework prior to their first flight.
Phil Poynter, a Young Eagles coordinator, said he has been around planes most of his life. He said the event, and the program itself, is aimed at getting younger generations interested and to share the same passion for it he has.
“My father was a pilot back in the late ‘40s and taught radio in the military,” Poynter said in an interview with KQ2. “We do this all in an effort to promote flying with the youth. They are our future.”
Ed Esminger, vice-president of the airport board for the NWMRA, said any youth organization can contact the airport about a free plane ride.
“It’s a lot of fun to get a kid that’s never been in an airplane before and give them a chance to fly and look out the window,” Esminger said. “It’s just amazing. I can remember my first airplane ride when I was 11 years old, and hopefully these kids will be able to remember their first airplane ride too.”