Rock Creek flyer Solamon Elliot, 12, got a taste of the pilot’s life on Saturday at the Grand Forks Flying Club. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

Passion for planes takes off

The Grand Forks Flying Club is trying to build young interest in aviation

Solamon Elliot of Rock Creek has wanted to be a pilot, “for a while,” he said after climbing down from the burgundy twin-tail Cessna aircraft that had taken him on a tour of Christina Lake, Cascade Falls and the North Fork beyond Grand Forks on June 1. Elliot was one of more than 40 children who got personal tours of the East Boundary last Saturday as part of the Grand Forks Flying Club’s open house, run in tandem with the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association.

The event, that had to be rescheduled from May 25 due to weather, invited kids and teens to take a crash course in ground school with longtime Boundary Air Cadet instructor Jim Lewall before taking off with one of three pilots who fly out of the Grand Forks airport.

Airplanes fly because there are more little green aliens pushing up on their wings than there are jumping on top. Pilots draw the wheels up because, well, can you imagine running through a pool while carrying a heavy bucket under the surface too? That’s how Lewall explained the concepts of lift and drag to his eager students.

“There are no peanuts and pop on these flights,” Lewall warned. Nevertheless, many of the day’s attendees were raring to take off.

“I feel free when I’m up in the air,” said 14-year-old Kyle Kimmel after his flight with his sister. On the ground, Kimmel’s mother said that she felt nervous to have both her kids up in a small plane at the same time, but they insisted that the flight was comfortable.

“You could feel a lot,” Kyle said. “You could see a lot too,” his younger sister Kyra added, after returning to ground, much to the relief of their nervous mother.

The point of the event, said coordinator Sharon Toorenburg, is to get kids interested in aviation. The industry is in desperate need of new, young employees to work everywhere from the tarmac to the cockpit.

Up in the air, 12-year-old Solamon Elliot sat beside pilot Ben Peach and got to see and feel the controls tilt and pull with Peach’s deft touch, manipulating the aircraft over Cascade Falls and Christina Lake. Elliot said that he wants to be a pilot one day, and judging by his competence in the front seat, Peach said that “he’d be a natural.”

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Jim Lewall, second from right, teaches students the basics of aviation physics.

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