Debbie Croft: Get a chance to spread your wings at Air Fair

April 19, 2013 

DEBBIE CROFT

Were you the kid who strapped homemade wings on your arms and jumped out of trees, hoping to glide effortlessly through the air?

Did you ever leap off the front porch with an open umbrella in your hand, attempting to float to the ground like Mary Poppins?

Or maybe you watched a kite ascend little by little above the rooftops and treetops, wishing you too could ride on the wind?

If you've ever wanted to fly, or you already have and loved it, next weekend's 14th annual Air Fair and Family Adventure Day is the place for you. This event will be held 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 27 at the Mariposa-Yosemite Airport.

Some pretty amazing machines will be flying by and flying in as part of the Air Fair.

Free airplane rides will be given to kids from ages 8 to 18. Who knows, some may even get the chance to put their hands on the controls and "steer" the plane.

The local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association sponsors this event in the hopes that one or two young people will decide to become a pilot.

Through the EAA's Young Eagles program, first-time fliers will receive their own log book. And for those interested, Sporty's Pilot Shop provides access to its online ground school training classroom for Young Eagles.

George Clover is a member of the EAA and the coordinator of the Air Fair. The first time he flew as a kid sparked his interest in aviation. He remembers joining the Young Eagles and going to fly-ins at Castle Air Force Base. After meeting the requirements at age 20, he obtained his private pilot license.

Clover will sit in the pilot's seat next weekend. The reactions of first-time fliers vary, he says.

"Some kids sit quietly during the flight, but others kick the back of my seat and scream with excitement. And sometimes the adults are more nervous than the kids are."

Warbirds, experimentals, antiques and classic airplanes will be on display. Modesto's Commemorative Air Force is bringing two WWII vintage aircraft: a spotter and an air ambulance.

Kids will enjoy building and launching their own water rockets and taking a turn in the flight simulator.

At the Learn to Fly booth, Theran Balmain, a certified flight instructor from Coulterville, will be on hand with information and thrilling stories of soaring above the clouds.

That morning volunteers from the Mariposa County Fire Department are planning to arrive early to cook stacks of pancakes for their breakfast fund-raiser, served 8 to 11 a.m.

The bloodmobile from Central Valley Blood Bank will be on site, and John C. Fremont Hospital will provide free diabetes screenings and blood pressure checks.

Food and souvenirs will be available for purchase from vendors.

Fair admission is $2 for adults. Kids 10 and under get in free with an adult.

Built during WWII, the Mariposa Airport wasn't much more than a couple of buildings, two hangars and a dirt runway. Since then improvements have been made to serve all types of aircraft. It is the closest airport to Yosemite Valley.

According to Sharon Coolidge, the fixed-base operator, the airport was almost shut down five years ago.

"But local pilots and residents stepped up to run things until other arrangements could be made," she says.

The Mariposa Airport is at 5020 Macready Way, about four miles north of Mariposa on Highway 49. For more information, call (209) 966-2143, or go to www.mariposayosemiteairport.com.

Clover sums it up this way: "Flying alone is boring. It's more fun to share the experience with others."

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at composed@tds.net.

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