Youngsters get bird’s eye view of county

RIPLEY – There aren’t many local citizens who can say they’ve had a bird’s eye view of Tippah County, but after participating in a day of flying with the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Young Eagles, seven youngsters can be added to the list. Last Saturday, Ripley Elementary School student Caleb Cooker and Ripley Middle School students Jarret Greer, Kris Storey, Austin Parks, and Keshaun Sricklin joined Ripley High School students Ryan Johnson and Chris Van Slyke for the event at the Johnson-McGill Airport. Each junior pilot flew with licensed pilots Tom Brent, Johnny Coombs, and Dell Harrell. A Piper Tri Pacer owned by Brent and a Cessna 150 owned by Harrell was used to take the 20-minute tour of the county. Each plane flew at approximately 2,200 feet. “The Young Eagles was organized by the EAA as a program to get young people between the ages of 8-17 interested in aviation,” said Brent, who coordinated the day. “We give them a free flight and generally introduce them to the airport and aviation related things.” Brent is a native of England, where he began flying in 1965. He retired to Walnut after a 30-year career as a research doctor for St. Jude Hospital. “We want to get young people involved because it may just be a hobby at first, but one day it may become a career,” added Brent. “We hope to have another day like this in the near future.” It was the first time to fly for the majority of the youths and many said they were nervous just before taking off, but said the trip was a fun experience. “I thought it was really strange up there at first because I couldn’t really tell where anything was, but it was fun,” said Ryan Johnson, 15. “That was my first time flying and I was kind of nervous taking off because it was kind of wobbly.” Johnson added that despite the nervousness, he would do it again. After making the flight each child was presented with a certificate that read, Let it be known that (child’s name) has experienced the true adventure of flight and has become a Young Eagle. His name has been permanently entered into the World’s Largest Logbook at the EAA Air Adventure Museum in Osh Kosh, Wis. “The flight was real fun and I got to see my aunt’s house,” said Caleb Coker, a fourth grader at RES who said he’s taken the flight before. Coker is a nephew of Coombs and often flies with him. “I got to go over Tippah Lake and we saw one turtle and a box in the sand.” When asked if he wanted to become a pilot when he grows up, Coker responded, “Maybe.”

Kedrick Storey/Southern Sentinel