Young Eagles see Detroit from 3,000 feet

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

The pilots donated their time, their money and their planes. The kids brought their enthusiasm and smiles.

That meant a new experience for dozens of Metro Detroit youths on Sunday, when the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program came to Detroit City Airport.

The Young Eagles program has been going nationally since 1992, and is closing in on its 2 millionth ride. Its purpose, outside of fun, is to entice children to consider a career in aviation, said Larry D. Sargent, vice president of the National Museum of the Tuskegee Airmen, who volunteered Sunday.

The pilots are volunteers who use their own planes. Helping children see Detroit from a new perspective keeps them afloat.

“Is that Belle Isle?” one child asked as the four-seater aircraft approached the island. “It is,” the pilot said.

“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it’s so big!”

The planes fly up to only about 3,000 feet; any higher, Sargent said, and they’d be entering commercial airspace, with many more regulations.

That altitude level offers an intimate view of Detroit, the aviators said. Commercial planes fly higher; drones don’t get as high.

Not all of the youths whose interest in aviation is piqued will grow up to be pilots, Sargent said, but there are many careers in aviation that don’t require flying a plane, he said.

“If you’re a mechanic, you can make good money,” Sargent said. “If you’re a mechanic who works on planes, you make even better money.”

Sunday’s event held special significance for one family.

Dave Posavetz was a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, a Detroit News alum who spent the bulk of his career shooting for the Macomb Daily.

Aviation was his hobby; after seeing the work of the Young Eagles program, which his plane shared an airport with, he was hooked. For years, Posavetz gave his time and brought his plane, until he died in November 2014. For the last two years, the Young Eagles rally in June has been held in his honor, said his widow, Nancy, and his son, Nick.

“Look at those kids,” he said, pointing at two kids who had just wrapped up a 25-minute flight. “They’re all leaving with smiles.”