Experimental Aircraft Assn. to offer flight simulation and real airplane ride Saturday at Merced airport

The Merced Chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association said it will sponsor a Learn-to-Fly Day Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Merced Municipal Airport.

The group said local pilots will give lessons in aerodynamics and flight theory which will lead to a real airplane ride. Some 30 to 40 youngsters will get an introductory flight and a ride in the simulator. A parent or guardian must be present.

The Young Eagles Program, which introduces kids 8-18 to flying, has become an international event and recently surpassed its one millionth ride, the group said in a news release.

Rather than a lecture, the group said it decided to create an interactive flight simulator that would allow each student to experience what real flying is like while safely on the ground.

Organizers said they also wanted to provide fun for those younger than 8, the limit for Young Eagle pilots. Built in 2008, the flight simulator was initially a static model with working control surfaces and a computer-based Microsoft Flight Simulator program. The simulator drew large crowds at the 2008 Mariposa Airport open house and took first in category at the Christmas Parade that year, the news release said.

Organizers have since added pitch-and-roll motion coordinated with the control inputs of the pilot. The simulator won the first-place overall trophy at last year's Mariposa Christmas parade.

Although mainly intended to introduce children to the wonders of flight, the small airplane is large enough for a 6-foot-tall, 250-pound adult. It’s built with a combination of retail and surplus hardware and materials the team scrounged and modified to do the job. The fuselage is wood and was built by Greg Bean and Rob Binder. The wings were built by Tim Wennberg, who also made much of the motion system.

About the crew:

Greg Bean is a master craftsman who worked at CKC Laboratories for much of his career, building exotic test equipment for Electromagnetic Interference testing. He works in wood, fiberglass, plastic and metal. He flies a classic Cessna 170 and plans to build a mostly wooden airplane someday, powered by a model A Ford engine.

Rob Binder is a retired chemist who worked in the semiconductor industry in the Bay Area. He’s building a fiberglass and foam experimental airplane called a Long Eze, designed by famous aviation innovator Burt Rutan.

Tim Wennberg is a electromechanical designer who spent much of his career designing biotechnology instruments, motion and laser systems. He’s one of the inventors of PCR technology, which won the Nobel Prize for chemistry. He flies an experimental aerobatic CAP10 airplane and runs the volunteer program that operates the airport terminal.