Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Young Eagles Day

I am a long-time enthusiastic supporter of The Experimental Aircraft Association [EAA]. Their Young Eagles program gives kids an opportunity to fly.  For one reason or another I have never been able to participate until today.

I took the club Archer, accompanied by one of our chapter members, to Gooding, Idaho, the home of the Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind.  This is the third year that our chapter has given flights to the kids at the school.  As the name implies, most of the kids have some kind of developmental difficulty, but I still believe that everyone loves to fly. 

The airport was like a mini-Oshkosh, with planes continually taxiing out, launching, and returning.  We used Oshkosh call signs too, to keep the radio chatter under control.  I was the white Archer, Mike was the Red Cherokee, Austin was the Pulsar, and so on.  We kept the pattern pretty full, and it didn't take long to give something like 50 kids airplane rides.  (The rides were substantial; mine averaged 18 minutes.)

[By the way, everyone did a full 360 before taking the runway at this uncontrolled field. There have been way too many midair collisions in the pattern this year, with tragic consequences.]

When I taught computer science, I used to say that "a good computer scientist is interested in everything;" now I am beginning to think that "a good pilot is interested in everything," too.  For example, at some point I learned sign language letters.  My friends and I used this on multiple car road trips before there were cell phones.  "Next exit," we'd sign, and the like.  Today I flew two girls who were completely deaf, so the only way to communicate with them was by signing.  I felt inept: their signing is so graceful and fluid.  But mine worked.  The girl in front was fussing with her shoulder harness during the taxi out, and not wanting to get distracted during a "critical phase of flight," I stumbled through signing "W A I T."  Which she did.

So you may never fly with a passenger who cannot hear.  But think about this: two guys I knew were flying a King Air that lost a door in flight.  They kept it flying, and landed at an airport in one piece.  In their later talk about the incident, they said that one of their big problems was that it was too noisy to hear each other.  

A little bit of sign language would have helped.

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At May 27, 2008 at 8:10 PM , Blogger Dale said...

Great account. I like getting someone else's perspective.


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