Island skies full of flying kids over the weekend

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The skies over Charlottetown are abuzz with aircraft today as hundreds of flights take children up in the air for the annual COPA For Kids program.

Run by the P.E.I. Flying Association, chidden have been invited to pre-register for a chance to fly.

Aircraft range from Wayne Gray's twin engine Piper Seneca V to Cessna's to Arlie Jay and Jeff MacRae's helicopters.

Its very exciting, such a thrill for the kids," said Janet Keen as her children came off a helicopter ride.

Fun, said April Keen who flew with her brother Kenny.

"I have never been in a helicopter before," said April.

A similar event will be held in Summerside on June 28. More information can be obtained from this COPA for Kids site.

Gray said it is really rewarding giving the rides to young people through this program. There is lots of excited chatter while up in the air.

"It's a lot of fun," he said. "For some of them it's their first time up in an airplane.

"They are saying 'oh my gosh, oh my gosh, look how small that car is!' just having a great time," said Gray.

Al Dunphy was working ground crew. He has his own plane now in a partnership, a Piper Cherokee Warrior, but remembers his first ride, back in the 60s, from a farmer's field in Souris West.

"Myself, I had my first airplane ride when I was 13 years old, and I thought that was neat and I thought someday, hopefully, I would get my own pilot's license, which I did " he said.

He has been doing the kids flight program many years now, giving children the chance to get that same spark.

"They are at the age where they have an interest," he said.

The older kids get a chance to put their hands on the controls.

Dunphy usually reminds the kids that there are air cadet programs on the Island.

A large number of volunteers are on hand to keep the day running smoothly. The children get a ticket, ground crew keep them loading to planes safely, other run a computer system to issued flight certificates and issue flight logs.

"It's a lot of fun," said Gray. "For some of them it's their first time up in an airplane.

He too, wants to offer the chance to experience the excitement he remembers as a boy.

"I remember when I was just a kid my uncle arrived with a little Cessna 172 from Toronto and took all us kids flying," said Gray. "I will never forget it as long as I live."

Organizations: P.E.I. Flying Association, Cessna

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Summerside, Souris West Toronto

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