Oahu flight program helps develop young pilots

Published On: May 16 2014 08:32:08 PM HST   Updated On: May 16 2014 08:34:56 PM HST
WAIALUA, Hawaii -

Flying over the crystal clear, aqua marine waters and miles of sand on the north shore is a bucket-list type moment for many people. But, some are checking this one off before they've even reached 10 years old.

Click here to watch Nana Ohkawa's report.

Around here, they're called the Young Eagles. They're practicing their take offs and landings at Dillingham Airfield as part of the Acroflight International program. It's a school for future aviators ages 8 to 14.

One pilot, 13-year-old Anna Wood, prepped a plane for her 40th flight.

"There were already a lot of younger kids flying here," said Anna. "But a lot of my friends were like, 'You're too young to fly.'"

Co-pilot and instructor Steve Lowry doesn't think so, even if he needs to stack pillows so Anna can reach the controls.

"It's not really scary. It's fun even though you are diving down straight into the ocean. I like that part the best," said Anna. "When we do acrobatics – when you are diving straight down it's really cool. It feels like you don't weight anything. It's really fun and then also when you get lift, you go straight up. So, it's kind of like a roller coaster. It's fun."

Anna has learned some aerial acrobatics and also how to fly formation with another plane.

Lowry has been running the program with his wife Suzy for the past nine years, mostly with donations from the community. Other pilots at Dillingham have been lending their aircrafts, so kids can take to the air more often. Some of the volunteer instructors are active duty air force officers.

The student pilots have to keep up their grades to remain in the program and it costs their parents $60 a flight.

Anna's mom thinks it's worth it.

"She came down just beaming and she said, 'This is what I want to do' and was so excited. I said, 'Are you sure' because I wasn't sure," said Judy Wood, Anna's mother. "I wouldn't be doing what she's doing. I'm very proud of her. She's gone above and beyond."

"Flying is a small part. It's mostly about developing character and citizenship," said Steve. "We've seen some amazing transformations in these kids from being very quiet and shy to becoming bold and developing leadership qualities."

Like Anna. Her goal is now to earn her wings to fly in the National Guard and fly a helicopter for a children's hospital.

You'll find lots of proud moms and dads at the airfield. They have to be there. Even though their kids can zip around overhead in a plane, they still need a ride to the airport.

Kids can't fly gliders alone until they are age 14. They have to wait until age 16 to fly single engine planes solo.


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