Eight-year-old Kinsley Shaw from Innisfail gets strapped into a plane by pilot Randy Galan at the COPA For Kids event at the Innisfail Airport Saturday. (Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff)

WATCH: Kids flying for the first time in Innisfail

Children learned the magic of flying at the Innisfail Airport Saturday.

The Innisfail Flying Club hosted its annual COPA (Canadian Owners and Pilots Association) For Kids event, where local pilots gave children, between eight and 17, a free first flight.

Penhold’s Amber Stackhouse stood on the ground as her 10-year-old son Wyatt and 11-year-old daughter Cassie went high up into the air in a small plane.

“My daughter … is looking forward to joining air cadets next year so I thought she’d love to get up in a little plane … and my son likes anything engineering,” Stackhouse said.

Stackhouse said she heard about the event on Facebook and thought her kids would love it.

“It’s an amazing introduction into the industry and we’ll see if it takes them further into it,” she said.

COPA For Kids has been in Innisfail for 10 to 15 years. There were 90 participants registered and 11 planes flying at this year’s event.

Sheldon Piecowye, event co-chair, said it’s a treat giving kids the opportunity to fly.

“Some of these kids will never fly so it gets them into the air and gets them to experience the flight,” he said.

Valerie Deschamps, also event co-chair, said the goal is to introduce kids to the world of aviation.

“In Grade 6 aviation is offered as one of their curriculum courses so we try to time it with the offering of those courses so it supplements all their knowledge from that,” she said.

Robert Jaap, Innisfail Flying Club vice-president, said he hopes this event creates some future pilots.

“Our turnout today was really good. I really enjoy it – watching the kids go up for the first time. Sometimes we even let them fly,” he said.

The excitement on children’s faces never gets old, he added.

“Their faces just light up – sometimes it’s not until you hit the ground. We come in, we land, we taxi over and as soon as they see their parents they just light up. It’s pretty amazing,” said Jaap.

The COPA For Kids aviation program has events across Canada. To date, more than 23,000 youth have been introduced to aviation through the program.


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