Dave McElroy of Kelowna gives Russell Skidmore a pat on the shoulder after landing at the Penticton Airport Sunday at the COPA for Kids flight day. Mark Brett/Western News

Flights for fun at COPA for Kids

Annual COPA for Kids offers free flights to promote the world of aviation

Flying at 2,000 feet over the Okanagan Valley 17-year-old Kaden Katelnikoff had what might best be termed as a career epiphany.

“It was just awesome, got to fly the plane it was so responsive, you go one way and it just tips and it’s pretty cool to look down and know that you’re flying,” said the Penticton teen after getting out of Paul Townson’s RV 8 home-built, single-engine airplane Sunday at the Penticton Regional Airport. “It was my first time in a small plane and it really puts things into perspective. What I liked most about flying was just being up there, being alone and flying.

“Yeah, I want to be a pilot.”

Russell Skidmore, 11, of Okanagan Falls also got a free ride that morning as part of the annual Canadian Owners and Pilots Association COPA for Kids program.

“It was a little bumpy, but it was an awesome ride, I really liked it, I was in a small plane before but it was a long time ago and I don’t really remember it, but this was fun,” he said after exiting veteran pilot Dave McElroy’s RV aircraft. “I don’t know if I want to be a pilot, maybe.”

McElroy, the current president of the Kelowna and District Flying Club which is having it’s own COPA day in June, has plenty of air miles under his belt.

Related: South Okanagan and Similkameen kids get to fly free

In 2014 he flew a Piper Comanche around the world which raised over $150,000 for two charities and this year he and two other pilots did the Give Hope Wings sojourn to South America raising over a half-million dollars for charity.

“What could be more fun than flying on a day like this? Young people, introducing them to aviation, the joy of flight, it doesn’t get any better than this,” said McElroy who previously received the prestigious Norton Griffiths Challenge Trophy from the Royal Aero Club in London for “outstanding feats of courage, tenacity and imagination.”

He added: “Just seeing the smiles on the faces, they vary some are shy this one’s (new passenger Hayden Wild) is not so shy. I think she’s going to be great. I like the ones that talk and ask questions.”

All the pilots and ground crew donate their time and cover costs just to give their young ride alongs the experience of flight with the hopes they too will one day find their passion in the skies.

At the end of the two hours, Penticton Flying Club president Ron Johnson tallied up the numbers.

“We had a total of 108 kids who got to fly today. It was really a great day for everyone,” he said.

 

Kelowna pilot Dave McElroy helps Hayden Wild with her headset prior to take off in his aircraft at the COPA for Kids event at Penticton Regional Airport Sunday. Mark Brett/Western News

Aircraft line up on the apron at Penticton Regional Airport to transport their special passengers. Mark Brett/Western News

Kaden Katelnikoff gives a wave as he prepares to take off in RonTownson’s aircraft at the COPA for Kids event Sunday. Mark Brett/Western News

Larry Ward of the Penticton Flying Club holds back the crowds at the COPA for Kids free flight day Sunday. Mark Brett/Western News

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