While the grand Junior Kids Fly Day was grounded this year, 100 Mile House students still got a chance to get up in the air in October.
The 100 Mile House Flying Club offered a series of flights for its sixth annual Fly Day in the first week of October, weather permitting, for students to take to the skies above 100 Mile House. Rather than a singular day event, the staggered system allowed the flying club, led by president Ursula Hart, to get about 50 aspiring aviators into the air, though their final day was rained out.
“For many of them, it’s their first time ever in a small airplane or in an airplane at all,” Hart said. “Especially in this October window when the leaves are slowly changing it’s just visually so dramatic. As soon as you pop up out of the 100 Mile airport, the Marble Mountains are clearly visible and the flashing colours are super beautiful and make the kids really excited about where they live and flying.”
Prior to climbing into the cockpit, participants this year would gather for a mini-flight school to run through the basics of flight, air traffic control and other topics. Hart said she felt this was more effective this year as the smaller group sizes allowed them to answer more questions from each student.
Once in the air, two students rode in the back with one up in the front with the pilot who had the chance to take the yoke and bank the airplane and fly a little bit. Hart said the student’s involvement in flying the plane depends on the judgment of the pilot and the conditions in the air. The overwhelming response from them after they’re done their half-hour-long flight is joy, Hart said.
Hart, who has been involved with the club for about a decade, became a pilot when she was 18 through a local ground school, shortly after graduating from Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School. After completing her commercial pilot training in Calgary, she worked as a commercial pilot for several years before returning to the community with her husband, a fellow commercial pilot, to settle down.
“I wanted kids in this community to know about the flying club so that if they have an interest in aviation they know there is a resource in the community for them. I think all of us in the 100 Mile Flying club have that same goal, so everyone has been really supportive in creating this Junior Aviator Kids Fly Day program and are committed to doing it annually,” Hart said, adding that the District of 100 Mile House and the Cariboo Regional District has supported the event financially.
Hart said the day has become progressively more popular each year, noting they flew 39 youth and children on one Saturday last year.
“If (students) have an interest we’re here to give them an opportunity that might answer further questions for them. Maybe they love it so much they’ll pursue it in a way they otherwise wouldn’t or maybe they don’t like it at all and they know they can forget about flying as a career,” Hart said. “In any case, it’s also a great way to see the home that they’re growing up in.”
Major airports tend to employ enough people to fill a small town, Hart said, and she wants to do her part to open local young people’s eyes to the career options available in that industry. PSO is promoting these career options so it ties in nicely into the high school’s programs, she said. And as the program is fully funded, it’s also a great opportunity for families who otherwise couldn’t afford an adventure like this to have their children experience flying.
It’s important for young people to see a woman flying a plane as well, she added, as the commercial industry is still dominated by men. Should a girl dream of being a pilot, Hart said attending the program and seeing it in action is something special she and the club can offer.
Hart said they plan to host the Junior Kids Fly Day for as long as they can and welcomes anyone with a private pilot’s licence who’d like to join the club and help out.