MARTINSBURG - Free airplane flights for youngsters will be available Saturday morning at the Altoona-Blair County Airport as part of Airport Day, an event to showcase the airport and local aircraft.
Owners of at least four aircraft have agreed, weather permitting, to provide short rides from 9 a.m. to noon for youths between 8 and 17 years old, said Gary Orner, vice chairman of the airport authority who has been organizing the event.
"Generally speaking, kids just love the ride," said Orner, who has provided rides to youngsters in his aircraft. "They usually don't want the flight to end."
Before going up in the air on Saturday, permission forms must be signed by the youngsters' legal guardian.
The pilots participating in the event are members of the local Chapter 400 of the Experimental Aircraft Association, an international organization hoping to provide 5,000 free airplane rides during Saturday's International Young Eagles Day.
"While we encourage Young Eagle flights throughout the year, International Young Eagles Day allows us to emphasize EAA's mission of growing participation in aviation to this new generation," said Brian Lena, a manager with the EAA organization headquartered in Oshkosh, Wis.
Since 1992, the EAA Young Eagles program has provided as many as 1.8 million free rides as part of its effort to encourage youth to become pilots, aircraft mechanics or to pursue another career in the aviation industry.
In addition to the free flights, a state police helicopter, a National Guard helicopter and an aircraft from Sun Air Inc., the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., company interested in providing passenger service at the airport, are expected to be on the grounds and available for viewing.
In addition, Orner said members of the Altoona Corvette Club were invited to the event to showcase their cars.
Refreshments will be available during the event, through arrangements made with the airport's Kitty Hawk restaurant and with Sheetz Inc.
The airport restaurant, which recently opened under new management, is open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. All aircraft owners who fly into the airport on Saturday will be eligible for a 15 percent discount in the restaurant, Orner said.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.