Experimental Aircraft Association, Aims Community College to put on Learn to Fly Day Saturday at Greeley-Weld County Airport | MyWindsorNow.com

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Experimental Aircraft Association, Aims Community College to put on Learn to Fly Day Saturday at Greeley-Weld County Airport

Learn to Fly Day

When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. May 20

Where: Greeley-Weld County Airport, 656 Ed Beagles Ln

Cost: $10 per flight

When Anna Stoltz turned 10, her parents surprised her with a flying lesson for her birthday.

She sat in the cockpit of a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, and the instructor let her take control for a while. She'd been on commercial airlines before with her family on vacation, but this was different. She was hooked.

Stoltz, of Greeley, plans to do her first solo flight Monday on her 16th birthday. She's working to make it into the Air Force Academy.

"Flying is like being totally free from everything," she said. "But at the same time you're completely focused and aware of everything."

“Flying is like being totally free from everything, but at the same time you’re completely focused and aware of everything.”Anna Stoltz

Stoltz got that birthday lesson at Learn to Fly Day. Every year, Aims Community College and the Experimental Aircraft Association collaborate to put on the event to inspire people such as Stoltz. This year's event will take place Saturday at the Aims Flight Training Center at the Greeley-Weld County Airport, 656 Ed Beagles Lane.

Instructors will fly folks around on Aims' Cessna 172 Skyhawks for $10 per person.

The event kicks off at 9 a.m. In addition to flights, airline recruiters will be there to talk about the aviation industry. The event also will offer aircraft displays, food concessions, vendor displays and radio control clubs.

Ron Bland, Greeley chapter president of the Experimental Aircraft Association, said he hopes Learn to Fly Day gets people exposed to the joys of flying.

It's important for young people to get interested in flying, he said, as a pilot shortage is looming in commercial and military venues.

"There are an awful lot of senior pilots reaching retirement age," Bland said. "It's the same for air traffic controllers."

Eric Himler, director of aviation, and Alex Wernsman, chief flight instructor, both at Aims Community College, echo the sentiment. They hope students will look to Aims for training in the field.

The industry will need 617,000 new airline pilots and 1,400 air traffic controllers world wide in the next 20 years, Wernsman said.

Beyond the industry need, it's a fun job, Wernsman said.

"There's no feeling like having no tether to the world below you," Wernsman said.

To add extra incentive, the Experimental Aircraft Association put together two scholarships from funds it collected at Learn to Fly Day. This year, Stoltz got that scholarship. It'll help cover some of the cost of learning to fly.

Stoltz's parents didn't know what kind of impact Learn to Fly Day would have on their daughter. Jim, Stoltz's dad, remembers wondering if she'd be scared in the little plane. When they took off, Stoltz sat in the cockpit. Jim was in the back of the plane. He knew then that she was a natural.

Since then, she's found scholarships on her own, joined the Civil Air Patrol and flown with an instructor to get her hours.

Stoltz said Learn to Fly Day is a good place for kids to get exposed to flying. It doesn't cost much, and if they don't like it, they can go back down, Stoltz said. It helps to get connected with the resources there too, she said, such as scholarship opportunities and various groups kids can join.

"Without (Learn to Fly Day), kids might not even think of flying as a career," Stoltz said.

— Kelly Ragan writes features and covers health for The Greeley Tribune. Have a tip? Want to share your story? Call (970) 392-4424, email kragan@greeleytribune.com or connect on Twitter @kelly_raygun.