The morning of July 13 was a wonderful day for 118 eight-to-17-year-olds to take to the air in a small plane at the COPA (Canadian Owners and Pilots Association) for Kids event at the Vernon Regional Airport.
Members of the Vernon Flying Club/COPA Flight #65 volunteered not only their time but also their aircraft to provide “Junior Aviators” with the opportunity to come to the airport and get up close to some small planes, learn a little about how they work and finally go fly in one.
Parents got to see what goes on at the airport and learn of its many benefits to the community and kids that were too young to fly got to pilot their very own “barrel plane” as they were pulled around the airport.
Also in attendance were local members of CASARA (Canadian Air Search And Rescue Association) and 223 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Cadets, who spoke with attendees about the many benefits and services their organizations provide.
The intent of the COPA for Kids aviation program is to inspire Canadian youth with an exciting experience and introduce them to the world of general aviation. And it’s all free of charge. With the support of COPA and AIG Canada (the insurance underwriters), COPA Flights all over the nation host these events at their home airports.
To date, the COPA for Kids program has introduced more than 23,000 young Canadians to general aviation, with 1,500 courtesy of the Vernon Flying Club/COPA Flight 65. For some of these kids it will just be a fun hour or so at the airport. For others it will ignite a passion for flying and perhaps inspire them to pursue one of the many career paths aviation has to offer.
However, while that is the intent of COPA, for the many volunteers who give their time and the pilots who also give the use of their airplanes it is far more than that. For them, flying and aviation are a passion and every bit a part of their lives as eating and sleeping. There is a saying that goes, ‘ask any pilot (or insert aviation career of your choice) how they got started in aviation and you will hear a love story.’
Most of those who are involved with aircraft in some way had in their past a point of “first contact” with aviation. For many it was their first ride in an airplane that forever changed them. At that instant a switch was flipped and from then on, they spent a great deal of time looking up at anything that flew overhead.
For these volunteers COPA for Kids is about paying it forward and giving kids the opportunity to have that “first contact.” It is the thrill of watching the huge cross section of kids, different in so many ways but now all somehow the same once they returned to the ground; thrilled and forever changed by their experience.
It is the excitement of watching apprehension, wonder and maybe just a little fear turns to focus and understanding of something that, perhaps only an hour ago, was a complete mystery. The point that everything finally makes sense and the “magic” that was flight has given way to real world things that can be quantified, envisioned and understood.
The Vernon Flying Club/COPA Flight 65 host COPA for Kids once a year in the second or third week of July. Registration usually opens a month prior. For more information on the COPA for Kids program and how you can get your young aero-nut involved next year e-mail the coordinator at email@example.com and like/follow their Facebook page @c4k.vernon to be kept informed about upcoming events.