CRESTVIEW — The sky over north Okaloosa County was filled with soaring Aviators, Owls and even a Mustang or two as 17 local students and 15 teachers from Antioch and Walker Elementary Schools’ and Shoal River Middle School made flights with pilots from the Civil Air Patrol and the local chapter of the Experimental AIrcraft Association. Some of the teachers and kids even got to fly the plane once they were aloft.
The Walker and Antioch students study in the Civil Air Patrol’s ACE (Aerospace Connections in Education) program at their schools. Antioch science teacher Laura Pink, who brought the ACE program to the Crestview-area schools, said the flights spur the kids’ interest in aviation, engineering, science and math.
“I hope this makes them see how interesting engineering and aviation can be,” she said before hurrying out to the Crestview Bob Sikes Airport flight line to greet an arriving plane carrying some of her Aviators.
“It was really, really cool,” Theodore Smith, 8, said after pilot Chris Foltz brought him back to earth, adding the best part was “going up into the air.”
A four-seater aircraft touched down and disgorged Walker faculty members including Principal Jeanine Kirkland.
“We flew! We flew!” Kirkland exclaimed as she hopped out. “It was awesome. It was beautiful.”
Pink and her fellow teachers praised the local Experimental Aircraft Association supporters, as well as the Civil Air Patrol and Embry-Riddle Aeronautics University, which sponsors the CHOICE aviation program in area schools. The CAP obtained a grant to make Saturday’s flying experience free to local schools. In addition to the 17 local students, the EAA also introduced a further 28 Young Eagles from throughout the county to the joys of flight Saturday morning.
“They’re so nice to come out here and do this for us,” Pink said. “If it wasn’t for these guys we couldn’t be doing this for our kids. I use this not just as a reward for my kids but as an incentive, too.”
Pink scurried back to the flight line to greet another arriving aircraft and see two more students off on their flight.
“Oh man, they’re all coming back with big ol’ smiles,” she said.
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