“This is going to be a safe trip today — we’re not going to do rolls and loops, ” TigerFlight pilot Phil “Sunny” Cataldo told a group of kids to a chorus of faux-disappointed “aaawwws.”
“Unless, you want it to be more interesting,” he said. “But, the rule is if you get sick in the plane you have to clean it up.”
The statement brought forth a slightly different chorus of “eeewwws.”
The important thing, he emphasized, is to face the challenge.
“When you do that, when you face the challenge and get through it, you’ll be very proud of yourself,” Cataldo said.
That’s what the trip was all about — facing challenges and developing the self-confidence to face future obstacles.
And that’s what the kids did.
“It was great!” exclaimed 9-year-old Noah Wheeler after his ride.
Other kids voiced their agreement that it was a one-of-a-kind experience.
“It was pretty exciting, but it kind of felt weird. You’d get kind of dizzy,” said 11-year-old Anthony Linatoc after his first flight.
The group taking their first flight on Saturday was organized by Summit Quest Adventures, a locally-based group that offers free outdoor adventure trips for kids that have a loved one afflicted with cancer.
This Saturday was another day to conquer a new and unexpected challenge. Luckily, for these kids, this time it was in the name of fun.
“We’d like the kids to make the connection with flying as a place where they are in control, like in their own life,” said William James, the executive director of Summit Quest.
The group organizes adventure trips like mountain biking, canoeing and hiking for kids, and this trip began because one of the TigerFlight pilots learned of a family member’s involvement with the group.
Tim “G-Man” Baird said after his brother passed away as a result of cancer he learned about Summit Quest taking his brother’s children along with others on their adventure trips.
“They went kayaking — to all these activities — whatever it was to take their mind off it,” Baird said. “I thought that was something.”
So he got with the other members of TigerFlight, and they organized Saturday’s event.
“We wanted to use aviation as an inspiration. They are the pilots in command of their own lives,” Baird said. “They can learn how to make their own decisions. Also, hopefully inspire them to learn about math and science. Aviation is all about math and science.”
As some of the adults did the necessary paperwork, the kids explored the hangar equipped with military memorabilia and took a ride in a personnel carrier.
There was some hesitation when the pilots were ready, but they’d thought of that.
One of the pilots, Blaine Cole, brought in a larger plane so families could fly together.
Just because somebody’s facing a challenge doesn’t mean they have to do it alone.
Staff Photographer A.J. Pierce contributed to this report.