Grounded, with head in the clouds
Teens with high-altitude ambitions converged on Mack Mesa Airport on Saturday, where Young Eagles rallied.
About 50 youngsters from across the Grand Valley started showing up at the airfield around 8:30 a.m. seeking a bird’s-eye view of the rolling fields and singular homesteads that surround the farming community of Mack.
An overcast sky and steady rain did little to dampen the enthusiasm of parents and children who navigated crosshatching rural lanes to arrive at the 2,600-foot-long runway a couple miles northwest of the town for which it is named.
Hosted twice each year by the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Chapter 800 Young Eagles, the events — known as flights — can attract 80 or more young people eager to climb aboard and learn about airplanes, chapter President Syndi Jochums said.
A number of pilots fly experimental craft at Mesa Mack, Jochums said.
An experimental aircraft is one normally constructed by amateurs. Airplane kits can be assembled at home and may cost as little as $4,500, said Kim Neibauer, a pilot and Chapter 800 member.
“Anyone can build one,” Neibauer said. “You can buy the plans or build them from a kit, just like a model airplane.”
Sterling Cosby, 12, and his brother, Parker, 13, both of Grand Junction, seemed to confirm this by nodding their heads and then describing the work they are currently engaged in as two of the youngest members of the chapter.
Both have logged hours in the cockpit and both are helping assemble one of two Dakota Hawks donated to the chapter. The experimental craft is slowly coming together in stages at a hangar at the airport.
“I have always been interested in flying,” Sterling Cosby said. “I want to be an airplane mechanic.”
“I love being up high,” said Parker Cosby, a former resident of Conifer. “I was born and raised for the first eight years of my life at 9,000 feet, so I love it. That’s what the plane does for me. It gives me the feeling of being up there.”
A quartet of girls from Pear Park Baptist school smiled and giggled as they contemplated the possibility of a free ride into the sky.
“I want to see the world from way up high,” said one.
“I think it takes some amount of courage to fly,” said another. “I always get a little nervous when the airplane shakes.”