A local troop of Boy Scouts got to steer airplanes for a few minutes Saturday, years before they would be steering cars.
About 30 boys, ranging from 11 to 15 years old, from local Scout Troop 4 earned their Aviation Merit Badges on Saturday.
The Experimental Aircraft Association organized the Young Eagle program for these local boys, who were bursting with energy about getting to be a pilot for a few minutes.
“That was awesome!” Bradley Metcalf, 12, told the News-Press after he got out of the small airplane. “I never thought I’d be able to do that!”
Bradley explained how sensitive the yoke (the control wheel of the plane) was and how the plane would respond to the slightest pull or push. When asked where he would go if he had his license and plane, Bradley did not hesitate. “I’d go to Hawaii. It’s warm, and a beach!”
His troop mate Tyler Bruce, 12, also shared Bradley’s excitement about possibly becoming a pilot one day.
“It felt good!” said Tyler. “I’d like to be able to be a pilot.”
Ann Smith, mother of one of the scouts, glowed with pride when her son Konrad took to the air.
“My older son’s already an Eagle Scout,” said Ms. Smith.
Konrad, her younger son,is on a similar path, and his grandparents were present Saturday at the Santa Barbara Miunicipal Airport to show support. The energy at the activity showed that the day embodied both a celebration and recognition that the boys were on paths to become Eagles, the highest rank a Scout can attain. Parents stood with smiles on their faces; a mother hugged her son warmly before he went on the plane; a father brought pizza for all the parents to enjoy.
The multi-family affair seems to provide a tight-knit support system for these Boy Scouts. According to Ms. Smith, the older Boy Scouts and parents served as mentors for the younger Scouts. The parents often take it a step further and volunteer their time and energy.
Paul Bowen, the troop’s assistant scoutmaster, was one of these parents.The former Boy Scout was not only a proud father of a current Boy Scout but also served as one of the three pilots, volunteering his energy, time, and plane Saturday to show the Boy Scouts how to fly.
“It’s a chance for the older generation to help the younger generation,” said Mr. Bowen, who added that the boys are gaining an insight to a potential life style, whether that be a pilot, a mechanic or an airport tower specialist. The other component important for Mr. Bowen was adventure.
“Boy Scouts is not just about the brown uniform and the weekly meetings,” said Mr. Bowen. “It’s about adventure and the experiences that you otherwise wouldn’t get.”
Earlier this year, Scouts BSA — formerly Boy Scouts — announced that girls were able to join the program as well. Mr. Bowen said he looks forward to seeing more girls having access to these types of adventurous activities as well.
Mr. Bowen’s friend Carl Hopkins was another pilot volunteering Saturday. Mr. Hopkins — who served as a Navy lieutenant from 1969 to 1974 — chased his dream of becoming a pilot after he moved to Santa Barbara. He joined the EAA about 15 years ago as a coordinator. These days, Mr. Hopkins takes his family across the country, from Maine to Georgia, where his wife’s family resides. He even takes his grandkids and daughter to see her close friend in Northern California.
Saturday, while running the administrative tasks with Terri Bowen (Mr. Bowen’s spouse), Mr. Hopkins led several pre-flight orientations around a plane that he uses for family travel.
Mr. Bowen and Mr. Hopkins were figures that the Boy Scouts could look up to. Indeed, some of the boys were already talking about flying their own planes in the future to visit family.
“I’d go to the Bay Area,” said Bradley’s triplet Travis. “Because my grammie lives there.”
Jack, the other triiplet, was in tandem with Bradley.
“Hawaii! I love surfing,” said Jack.
After flying over the Santa Ynez foothills, Carpenteria and Hope Ranch, the Boy Scouts all received a log book in which to record their first piloting experience. Mr. Bowen said he hopes it’s the beginning of their numerous pilot logs.