It’s that time of year again! It seems like only yesterday, an early morning flight to GYR to participate in my first Sky Kids Fly Day. I was excited, but also a bit nervous, not knowing what to expect. Earlier in the year I was asked if was interested in helping disabled and special need kids experience the wonders of flight and of course I said yes, as a pilot, who wouldn’t! I contacted Steve Snyder, Chairman of Sky Kids and he explained what the organization was about. Steve didn’t have to say much before I decided that I was in!
I spoke with my spouse, Nancy, about the event and told her I thought it would be worthwhile to spend the day volunteering. As a Speech Therapist working with special needs children in Paradise Valley School District, she wanted in as well. So we both signed up and we’re now on our way to Goodyear for the big day.
Upon our arrival, we were marshaled to the Sky Kids flight line. At the pilot briefing, we were assigned handlers to assist the kids from the hangar to the aircraft. Nancy was my handler for the day with the assistance of an experienced handler from the past year.
This is a well organized group, Steve and his volunteers have a thought-out system, there’s a mission board with airplane assignments coordinated by dispatchers that keep track of which aircraft are flying and who their passengers are. Passengers as a group, usually 2-3 in a group, are assigned a number. That number is given to the pilot who meets the family and his/her kid pilot.
The prescribed route was South and West of GYR at different altitudes depending on the speed of the aircraft. GYR was NOTAM’d for the day and ATC gave special handling to the Sky Kid flights, Lux Air Jet Center handled fueling and ground support which made it a breeze to fly a mission.
While the kids were waiting for their flight, there was food, games, face painting, static displays of Fire Trucks, Armored Police Vehicles and Aircraft. An aircraft was set up in the hangar to teach the kids and their parents about flight in their own ground school.
I have to admit, I was apprehensive on my first mission of the day, not knowing how my passengers would react, there’s that “what if” that goes on in the back of your head, but all of that quickly subsided and it was pure fun!
I flew six missions that day, each lasting about 20 minutes. The interaction and response of each of my copilots was priceless. I had as much fun as they did on the flights. There is nothing more rewarding then to see the excitement of the children and the gratitude of their parents at the end of the flight. The kids were treated as VIPs with a red carpet arrival, cheerleaders and a photo opportunity as kid pilots for the day, each with a grin from ear to ear. It was truly a special day for all of us!
To me, this is a rewarding event and one that you need to witness first hand. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. This is Sky Kids third year, each year is larger than the previous year. It’s a great opportunity to share our love of aviation and give back to the community. You can check it out at www.skykidsaz.org. It would be great to see fellow APAers at the Sky Kids Fly Day!