Young flight enthusiasts take to the sky over Neepawa



While these Neepawa Grade 6 students’ feet are back on the ground, their minds are probably still in the clouds after returning from a flight with pilot Russ Hamilton. The students participants in COPA for Kids, a program where they learn about aviation. Photo by Eoin Devereux

By Eoin Devereux

The Neepawa Banner

Just over 50 grade six students from Neepawa and Carberry recently took to the air for a flight they will not likely soon forget. The youngsters were participants in COPA for Kids, a program where they learn about aviation thanks to a partnership between the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) and the Beautiful Plains School Division.

NACI Vice Principal Val Parayeski said the project began about seven years ago as part of teaching the science behind aviation.

“There are 54 students registered to go up on flights. They’re grade six students from Carberry and Neepawa, and a portion of their science curriculum covers flight as one of the topics, so the students learn all about the mechanics and science behind flight as well,” said Parayeski. “It’s an excellent day and it’s an excellent opportunity for the students, some who have never flown before. Even for those who have been on an airplane before, these smaller types of planes may be a new experience for them.”

The pilots demonstrated to the youngsters just how they prepare for each flight with a pre-flight walk around. They then took to the sky where they cruised over the community before experiencing landing and shut down. 

Pilot Russ Hamilton has been a part of COPA for Kids for quite some time. He said the program has been a great way to introduce young people to flying. 

“Some youngsters at first are quite scared. I’ve had a couple of, let’s just say not so good stomachs, over the years. When I get first time flyers, I’m really careful with them. After a few minutes though, they get use to it,” said Hamilton.  “They walk away from this with a new respect for aviation. I’ve been doing [COPA for Kids] for several years. Before that, similar programs elsewhere. There have been a couple times, when I have encountered one of the students, I took up for flights in the ‘90s, who now have their own pilots licence. It’s great to see the love of flight continue on like that.”

As for the kids, they simply enjoyed the thrill of flight.

“The best part was when the pilot did a roller coaster. He flew the plane upward and then dive back down and up again. That was exciting,” said Grade six student Ben Cox. Fellow student Lara Denbow agreed and added that “I’ve been in bigger planes before, but never a smaller one like these. It was great when [the pilot tilted the plane from side to side.] It was a whole different kind of experience.”