The airspace around the Bemidji Regional Airport was busy Saturday as more than 100 youth went on free flights during the Young Eagles Rally.
The event, sponsored by the local Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1397, drew 112 participants, more than ever before, said Capt.
Steve McGuirk, a member of both the EAA and the Civil Air Patrol Northland Composite Squadron.
"We have never had this many," McGuirk said. "It was a team effort."
Seven pilots donated the use of their planes for the rally. McGuirk's two-seater stood out vibrantly with its red, white and blue American flag theme.
"He had that plane painted after 9/11," said Capt. Robin Helgager, commander of the Civil Air Patrol, which held an open house Saturday in the airport to introduce youth to the organization.
EAA President Jerry Greuel spoke with Young Eagles participants in the airport before they went out to the hangar, where they were given further instruction on planes that had been set up for educational purposes. Finally, they went out to the planes in which they would ride.
After their pilots gave them a lesson outside the plane and in the cockpit, they buckled their seat belts and went down the runway and into the air.
Pilot Raymond Majkrzak, who flew a four-seater plane, gave three boys a ride. Allen Hubert, 12, had been on a commercial flight, but not on a small plane. Raymond Robertson, 12, and his brother, Chase, 11, had never been on a plane of any size.
The boys were excited before the flight; 15 minutes or so later when they were back on the ground, they were even more excited.
"It was awesome," Chase Robertson said.
""Bemidji looks so small from up there," Raymond said.
"It was cool, better than the big one," Allen said.
After the flight, each youth received an official Young Eagles certificate.
The EAA Young Eagles program was launched in 1992 to give youth ages
8-17 an opportunity to fly in an airplane.
Pilot Brian Shaw, who instructed children inside the hangar Saturday, said his children -- Mitchell, 8, Brianna, 8, and Trevor, 5 -- already love flying.
Mitchell, 9, went on his first flight at age 3, Brian Shaw said. "He has no fear."