Pilot Kathy and her 1945 Air Coupe with Ethan, an air cadet with 87 Eagle squadron. DON RICKERS

Some 80 youngsters enjoy Aviation Day at local field

It was clear skies and smooth flying last Saturday at the Niagara Central-Dorothy Rungeling Airport (NCDRA), on River Road in south Pelham, as dozens of youngsters experienced the magic of flight.

Event organizer Doug Reilly, who flies an Aero Commander 112 monoplane out of NCDRA, said that the kids were placed in groups of about a dozen, to arrive on the half hour before they were due to fly. Parents smiled as their children climbed into the single-engine aircraft for a 20-minute cruise around Niagara.

Pilot Kevin in his Piper Arrow, with student Blake. DON RICKERS

Reilly said that Aviation Day is intended as “an open invitation for kids to come out and learn about airplanes, take a 20-minute flight, and hopefully kindle a love of aviation. That’s it, in a nutshell. All of the participating pilots are members of COPA, the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, funding this day out of their own pockets. We had 80 kids signed up to fly today, and a waiting list of about 40 more.”

He noted that about a quarter of the youngsters taking part in the morning and afternoon flights were from Pelham, who saw the story about the upcoming event recently in the Voice.

COPA pilots come from all walks of life. Many are retirees, providing a collective voice for airport-related issues. Veteran aviator Adrian Verburg said that although most of the participating pilots in Aviation Day are from Niagara, “one of our COPA pilots, who just recently moved to Owen Sound, flew in this morning to take kids up. We have some pretty dedicated people.”

Pilot Cornell Feenstra, flying a 2005 Diamond DA40, along with Hugo and Horace, whose parents found out about Aviation Day and drove all the way from Markham. DON RICKERS

Richard, one of the COPA pilots providing pre-flight orientation for the kids, told them that they should not be fearful of flying. At any time, he said, there are thousands of commercial aircraft aloft around the globe, each carrying hundreds of passengers, plus thousands of small planes in the air.

“The most hazardous part of flying is the drive to the airport,” he said.