Alva Review-Courier -

Waynoka Airport's Young Eagles Rally a high-flying success


October 16, 2019

Sue Hughes

Weatherford pilot Steve Zahorsky is ready to taxi with Xiexer Blackbird-Alvardo, 8, who described his flight in an RV7 as "really cool" and wants to go again.

The perfect combination of courageous kids, generous volunteers and blue skies made Waynoka Airport's Young Eagles Rally a resounding success. The Oct. 12 event enabled 30 youth (and one adult) to take what was for most their first flight in an airplane, and what was for all an experience they'll never forget.

Volunteer pilots from the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 455 and the Oklahoma Pilots Association touched down on Waynoka Airport's Runway 17 last Saturday morning between 8 and 8:30 a.m.

Representing EAA Chapter 455 were Alva-based pilot Terry Cline, who arrived in his Piper 140 Cherokee, and Dee Ann Ediger, who flew her four-seat Cessna 177 Cardinal. She recruited three more pilots from her Enid-based chapter to help with ground support: husband Ken Hollrah and his brother Richard, as well as Woodring Airport's new director, Lt. Col (Ret.) Deirdre Gurry.

From the OPA, the rally drew three pilots with two-seat airplanes: David Johnsen flew in a Citabria 7ECA; Steve Zahorsky came from Weatherford in his RV7; and Kyle Fulton, also from Weatherford, flew his Cessna 150. In addition, Kyle's brother Ricky arrived in his four-seat Cessna 180 Skywagon from Alex, and a fifth OPA member, Dusty Boren, flew in from Oklahoma City in his six-seat Bonanza 636.

While many young participants had reservations about their flight, post-flight reactions of their Young Eagles experience were 100 percent positive. One of the rally's youngest, 8-year old Xiexer Blackbird-Alvarado, emerged exclaiming "I want to be a pilot now."

Upon returning to the ground, Serenity Green, 11, observed that "everything is more beautiful in the sky than it is here."

Most Young Eagles who got the chance to sit up front actually took the controls and briefly flew their airplanes. Hearing this, reluctant flyer Wyatt Milledge asked to sit in the back. It's a good thing pilot Dusty Boren didn't honor Wyatt's request, because the 10-year-old emerged from the flight declaring his aspiration to be a pilot after controlling an airplane himself. Wyatt was joined by his mother Anna for emotional support during the flight, which was the first non-commercial airplane ride for both.

Non-flying parents enjoyed the event, too. Misty Smiley, who watched 13-year-old son Kile fly, was appreciative of the "really good things [the event] did for the kids. They all seemed to love it!"

Sue Hughes and Ken Hollrah

(Top left) Local pilot and Waynoka Airport Board member Ray Hull briefs volunteer pilots about taxiing, route of flight and airplane parking for Young Eagle flights. (Top right) Everyone is "thumbs-up" before Oklahoma City pilot Dusty Boren's flight with (from left) Anna Milledge and son Wyatt, Angel Ibarra and Teagan Harris in his six-seat Bonanza. (Bottom left) Alva-based pilot Terry Cline (left) stands with Paris Smith-Dunn by his Piper 140 Cherokee. Cline flew Smith-Dunn in his airplane. (Bottom right) Enid pilot Dee Ann Ediger (left) and Waynoka Young Eagles Rally organizer Sue Hughes share a lighter moment, while Richard Hollrah of Enid and local Dale Hughes talk flying. In the background is Brooke Harper.

According to Waynoka Airport Board president Sue Hughes, the six-member board spent months to bring this Young Eagles Rally to Waynoka. "Everyone pitched in to make this event a success," she reported. Local pilots Ray Hull and Dale Hughes managed ground and air traffic for the event, Karen Hull and Scott Schwerdtfeger handled registration, and Roscoe Like managed parking, setup, and cleanup.

Hughes shares credit for the successful event with the Chamber of Commerce for loaning tables and chairs; the City for sprucing up the grounds before the event and setting up barricades and extra trash cans; and Olga Romo-whose tamales, according to Karen Hull, are "out of this world!"- for serving breakfast burritos and snacks to volunteer pilots and visitors.

According to Hughes, "The Airport Board wanted to host a Young Eagles Rally as a thank you card to the residents of Waynoka for supporting the airport for so many years." She explained, "It's important to keep our airport relevant to our non-flying neighbors, so they can start to appreciate the value of such a facility the way our flying community does."

Hughes continued, "Not many cities this size (population of about 1000) maintain an interest in sustaining a municipal airport; and because of this, many rural airports are disappearing. The FAA and the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission are trying to reverse that trend by helping to fund airport improvement projects that are beyond the scope of many small-city budgets." Waynoka Municipal will benefit from one of these funding programs with a runway overlay project scheduled for next fall.


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