Young pilots test the sky at Rohnerville Airport

Mary Bullwinkel

Beacon Correspondent

Young people who dream of becoming a pilot and anything else aviation related have an opportunity to make those dreams come true with a program that offers monthly sessions at the Rohnerville Airport in Fortuna.

The program is called Avi8cando and it's Falcons program is aimed at young people between the ages of 12 and 19. It offers an in-depth look at aviation, with each session including some of the theory and science involved in flight, along with the practical "how it's really done" aspect.

According to instructor Rey Urbach, Humboldt County has a number of people with extensive experience in aviation who are all part of the program. "There are retired career military pilots, airline pilots, airplane mechanic engineers, meteorologists, private pilots, as well as Cal-Fire and Coast Guard personnel who are willing to take some time and talk to the kids and show them their aircraft," Urbach said.

At a recent session, participants toured and talked with representatives at the Cal-Fire base at the Rohnerville Airport. Urbach said the crew there was "extraordinarily helpful."

Each session usually begins with a classroom presentation that includes some of the aspects of flight, such as parts of the airplane, how wings create lift, and how a pilot controls the plane. "That's where I come in," Urbach said. "I teach high school physics and math at St. Bernard's and how airplanes fly is really just applied physics."

After the classroom session, students go out to the hangers at Rohnerville Airport for a closer look at aircraft. On occasion they may go for a ride in an airplane of helicopter, giving them what Urbach calls "hands on experience."

The sessions also feature guest speakers who have talked about weather and how important it is to pilots, how helicopter operate and what they are used for, and how the requirements of military flying puts special demands on the aircraft and the pilot.

On other occasions the students go on field trips to the U.S. Coast Guard Aviation station at the Arcata Airport, other local airports, and the National Weather Service Office in Eureka.

Urbach calls Avi8cando a great program with a lot of potential. "For interested youth, here is an opportunity to be in contact with aircraft and the people who build, maintain, and operate them. They get to see some possible career choices," Urbach said, "and talk to people who have made those choices."

Urbach also mentioned another local group which reaches out to youth interested in aviation: Lost Coast Aviators, a local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). Several members of this group are building their own aircrafts, and through their Young Eagles aviation program, participants can actually see how an aircraft is put together. The next Avi8cando session is scheduled for Nov. 12, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Rohnerville Airport Terminal Building.

photo caption:

Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer/Beacon

Aviation tools such as the APR Universal E6-B5 Computer were on hand during a recent Avi8cando meeting held at Rohnerville Airport in Fortuna. The tool looks at air pressure, pressure altitude, altitude, air temperature, and utilizes a wind component grid which assist in hands on education.