Two Young Eagles take to the air
By JENNIFER FARRELL
© St. Petersburg Times,
BROOKSVILLE -- From the time he was 6 years old, John Guarneri knew he wanted to fly.
As a small boy, he daydreamed about becoming a pilot and spent hours molding a fleet of model airplanes from bits of plastic and tubes of glue.
Now 15, John is a sophomore and a member of the Air Force Junior ROTC at Springstead High School, and the planes he collected over the years hang from the ceiling in the bedroom he shares with his younger brother, Jesse, 7. In their spare time, the pair practice their flight moves on a video game at their home in Spring Hill.
On Saturday, the boys got a chance to test their skills in the skies when their grandfather, Cesar Joubert, drove them to the Hernando County Airport for the Young Eagles Flight Rally.
There, for the first time, both boys got to fly a real plane.
While it was in the air.
Okay, not really by themselves. Each boy shared the cockpit with a licensed pilot who had volunteered to give free rides during the daylong rally. But John and Jesse did get to operate the controls on their own for a few minutes during separate 20-minute flights.
"He's a natural," pilot Rita DeBeer said of John, who smiled shyly and shrugged as he climbed out of her four-passenger Cessna 172.
Standing on the tarmac after the flight, he pronounced the ride a little bumpy before adding: "It was cool."
Jesse, meanwhile, learned there's more to piloting a plane than playing a video game.
Strapped in the cockpit with headphones on, he shouted above the engine noise as he pulled back on the controls and eased the plane higher into the air: "Wow. This tickles my stomach."
Back on the ground, the brothers compared notes before heading out for lunch with their grandfather.
Both pronounced the trip "cool," with only a minor complaint from Jesse: "I wish my legs were a little longer to reach the rudder."
"Maybe next year's flight," Joubert answered.
Organized by the Experimental Aircraft Association and held by local chapter 1298, the event was part of a nationwide initiative to introduce more young people to aviation. The goal is to provide free airplane rides to 1-million children age 8 to 17 by 2003, the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' flight at Kitty Hawk and the 50th anniversary of the association.
Organizers expected about 50 kids to show up for rides Saturday south of Brooksville. After their flights, the children were to receive certificates declaring them official Young Eagles.
Organizers said all the names would then be entered into the World's Largest Logbook, which is on permanent display at the EAA Air Adventure Museum in Oshkosh, Wis.
The logbook also is accessible on the Internet at www.youngeagles.com.
- Staff writer Jennifer Farrell covers Spring Hill and can be reached at 848-1432.
-- Staff photographer Maurice Rivenbark contributed to this report.
© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South St. Petersburg, FL 33701 727-893-8111