COPA For Kids

COPA, for my American readers is Canada’s version of AOPA – the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association. They, and other groups, have events where they invite kids to come take a plane ride. They organize a day where they get as many pilots and planes together as they can muster, and all morning and afternoon, planes are up and down taking kids for twenty minute plane rides. It’s about exposing young people to aviation, to let them get the chance to see if they enjoy it and encourage them to get involved.

I was at the EAA event earlier this summer, mashalling, and heard there was going to be another one for COPA, so I signed up to fly this time wth C-FLUG, the RAA 150.

I’ve flown at a busy airport, but mostly St. Andrews, where there’s the tower to tell you what to do, and worry about spacing. This event was as busy as the busiest day at St. Andrews that I’ve been flying, but the difference is Lyncrest doesn’t have a tower or air traffic control, so you’re responsible for spacing yourself. You have to pay attention to other pilots making radio calls, and make sure you’re making radio calls yourself to let other pilots¬†know where you are. That and keep your eyes on the sky for other planes.

I think I did all right – I got some feedback about wide circuits, but I was just trying to stay behind the guy ahead of me who was doing a rather wide circuit. I did a couple circuits ¬†alone before taking passengers, on the advice of the C-FLUG chief pilot, since it’s been a few months since I’ve been flying solo, even if I’ve still been flying.

It was neat to be involved in an event coordinating so many planes. At the briefing they went over what route we’d take. With that many planes in the air, having them all following the same route makes things much safer. We were all on the same frequency, and there were set points to make radio calls, and instructions for abbreviated routes if we had a kid starting to get sick and needing to get back quicker.

The air was the smoothest I’ve flown in months. Once the fog finally cleared, there was minimal wind, and once aloft, the plane sailed like we were barely moving.

I got two passengers. The first one was a boy, and he was excited to go flying. He was completely comfortable in the air, and I showed him what happens when you give the plane full rudder back and forth, and he wanted to do “the zero G thing.” Which is just a sudden pull up an then down, to give you a couple seconds of free-fall. It’s one of those things that can be frightening if your passenger’s not expecting it, and a little uncomfortable, but fun, and not at all dangerous.

My second passenger was a girl, and she was really nervous. I told her how my husband was nervous for his first time flying too, and I hope that helped. I wondered if I should have told her she didn’t have to go if she didn’t want to, but she didn’t seem unwilling, and while she told me she was scared several times, she never said she didn’t want to go. It was kind of interesting, reassuring a young passenger. I was never afraid of these sorts of things at that age – I had a bit of blind trust of adults then, and always assumed that no one was going to put me in physical danger. But I think it was good that she was telling me; expressing her feelings. That’s something I had trouble with at that age.

It didn’t help that she was hearing on the radio that bad weather was on it’s way either though. I wish I’d realized that it was the strobe light on the tail that she was mistaking for lightning, or I could have reassured her about that better. I didn’t do anything interesting on that flight with her – didn’t want to scare her any more than she was.

After two passengers, though, the rain swept in from the north-west and we were grounded again. It was a great day though; I love sharing my love of flying with others.