- Associated Press - Sunday, February 8, 2015

NEWALL, Okla. (AP) - A love of aviation seeps from just about every crack in David Ames’ cavernous workshop in Newalla.

There are pictures of planes on the wall, old blueprints and maintenance manuals lying around, and even a plane being assembled from a kit, a project Ames has been working on for several years. The fuselage sits in the workshop with a wing in a basement room. Parts large and small are sealed in plastic bags and tacked up on a peg board.

His six-seat Piper PA-28 Cherokee sits outside, near the runway that he and several other pilots in his small subdivision use. If you’re an aviation buff, it’s nirvana.

But while Ames, 70, loves to fly planes, he enjoys inspiring kids just about as much. Ames has been an active participant in the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1098 for more than 30 years.

When the organization formed its Young Eagles program in the early 1990s, Ames was one of the first in the area to volunteer to take kids up in his plane. Since 1992, he’s given rides to 898 participants in the program. Every drop of fuel has been paid for out of his own pocket.

“One of the main things I tell these kids is that anybody can learn to become a pilot,” Ames told The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1D5Hx96). “It takes a lot of work and a lot of study. But they learn much better at that age than we do as we get older. As long as they pay attention to science and math, flying an airplane will come pretty easy to them.”

Ames’ life is a testimony to late starts. He joined the Air Force after high school but didn’t learn to fly until he was 40.

“I joined the service so I could be around planes,” he said. “But flying lessons are expensive and they always have been. I just had to wait until I could get established in life to afford the lessons. When you’re 20, you’re worried about spending money on stupid stuff like food and rent.”

The Young Eagles programs allows kids ages 7 to 17 to go for short flights. Ames said he takes the Young Eagles who ride with him on his pre-flight inspection, and then explains to them what will happen when they get in the plane and where they are going. The flights usually last about 20 minutes. The Experimental Aircraft Association puts on about eight to 10 events aimed at Young Eagles each year in Oklahoma.

“There are some kids that you think, ‘Well, I’ve just given them a carnival ride,’” he said. “But there’s always one or two that when you see that smile on their face, you can tell you’ve done some good. That’s worth the cost of the gas and the time we put into it.”

Choctaw High School student Alexander Daniel has been active in his school’s Air Force JROTC program. He recently took a Young Eagles flight and came away even more sure that his goal of becoming a pilot is right for him.

“I had never been in the cockpit of a plane until I went to the Young Eagles and they let me not only take a ride, but fly the plane a little bit,” Daniel said. “I got to do a couple of banks. It was like a dream come true in a lot of ways. But it’s a dream that hasn’t fully happened for me yet. It was like a taste of the cake.”

Classmate Bailey Armstrong also was inspired by his flight.

“I’ve been interested in planes for a long time,” Armstrong said. “I was already into RC aviation when I took my first Young Eagle flight, and it just added fuel to that. It’s a lot different than flying an RC plane. It’s a lot more fun.”

For Daniel, the flight may have sparked an interest in a long-term career in aviation.

“I don’t know of any job where every day you get to fly and look at the landscape,” he said. “When it’s a clear day, it’s beautiful. I want a job where I wake up and I’m excited to do that job. I think I’d be excited to fly planes every day.”


Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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