IMPERIAL — Adverse weather conditions grounded all flights just one day prior to the Imperial Aviation Day at Imperial County Airport resulting in disappointed children who were anticipating free rides on small airplanes and an opportunity to fly over Imperial Valley.
However, their disappointments were not totally dampened.
Dennis Logue, 2017 chairperson of the Imperial Aviation Day, said sixty children were given vouchers to fulfill their dreams of flying on February 25th. Even if they were disheartened, they had something to hold on to and anticipate coming back. Others, without vouchers, need only to show up next month for a free flight. There is no need for vouchers, according to Logue.
Still, children and their parents had the opportunity to visit static displays of an assortment of private, commercial, and military aircraft. In their excitement, children were seen running ahead of their parents toward an airplane.
Julie Castillote, with her husband and two children, said her children went inside the Mokulele, the REACH helicopter and the Osprey Marine aircraft. “They are enjoying it. We were just thankful for something to do on a Saturday morning.
One of the aircrafts was a Cessna Grand Caravan. Capt. Greg Landers, Mokulele Airlines Director of Training, stood next to the commercial commuter airplane ready to greet eager children, to assist them up to the cockpit, and respond to any queries about the instrument panel and airplanes in general.
“We are showing off our Cessna Grand Caravan Mokulele. We fly regularly scheduled service to Los Angeles everyday,” Capt. Landers said. The nine-seat capacity airplane has four daily flights from Imperial to Los Angeles.
“We show the children how cool the airplane is. Everybody loves to touch and feel and see an airplane. Every kid wants to fly. At least, at first,” Capt. Landers said.
Quinn Anderson, 4, with the assistance of his father, Tom Anderson, climbed up the ladder located in the back of the fuselage and walked fast towards the front, then past the curtain into the pilots compartment area. Quinn, wearing light blue sunglasses, touched the controls and buttons. Capt. Landers even allowed Quinn to pull the yoke or control wheel. The boy was particularly fascinated with the digital control displays.
“I like the map,” Quinn said.
This year, Logue said, the committee is doing something different, in the interest of children and their insurance policy.
“We have to qualify pilots through a child protection training program. Training in how to handle and work with children to provide a safe environment. The pilots need to take the class and pass a certification and background check.”
“We cannot just walk out and ask any pilots to fly our kids,” added Logue.
As a result, there were fewer pilots because they are yet to be certified to fly children. That is in addition to the weather factor.
“Unfortunately we had really bad weather yesterday and the pilots were stocked over in Riverside, Orange County, Los Angeles, but they couldn’t get over,” Logue said. “Mokulele had cancelled all their commercial flights because they couldn’t get through the bad conditions. There was really a serious problem with icing, which is bad for airplanes.
Imperial Aviation Day was made possible because of volunteers from the community as well as from the Naval Air Facility El Centro.
According to Logue, 17 military personnel from NAF El Centro volunteered to help with security and crowd control. “We really appreciate them supporting the community.”
Airman Jasmine Bailey, USN, said volunteering is a great experience. “We love working with the community and helping people make their job easy.”
Another volunteer was Airman Diana Farias, USN who is from Florida. She said, “Volunteering is a great work. I like giving back to the community.”
Their duties included: helping with vendors, help with rock climbing, walking around directing traffic, and to keeping the area secure.
By noontime, parents and their children purchased from food vendors and ate under the blue skies and bright sunshine. One child simulated flight with his wood glider.