PASO ROBLES - The Paso Robles Air Fest and FlyIn last weekend was enjoyed by aviation enthusiasts both young and old, local and not so local. There were helicopters, fire planes, crew, free rides and quite a few “not so typical” birds to check out.
One in particular was a 1939 Bowlus Baby Albatross made of solid polished hardwood and metal. There were only about 50 of them built in the San Fernando Valley according to owner Jeff Byard.
“Most of them were sold as kits like this one but the war was just starting so a lot of the kits didn’t get finished,” Byard said. “This one didn’t get finished until 1968, took one flight and then it was put in storage. I bought it in 1990 with 2 hours and 38 minutes on it.”
When asked what it was like to fly such a beautiful thing Byard responded, “Oh, just delightful. Nice and slow, open cockpit, you can smell the flowers.”
For those that didn’t have a plane of their own to fly, and were 8-17 years old, there were free 30-minute rides offered by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Young Eagles Program.
“We love the kids and we want to get them enthused about flying,” said EAA pilot and volunteer Linda Korman. “There’s not a lot of people going into aviation so we just want to encourage kids to consider another route.”
Headquartered in Osh Kosh, Wis., the Young Eagles is an international program that helps to introduce young people to aviation. If not as pilots, as mechanics and a lot of areas that have to do with aviation.
“There’s a shortage of those, mainly pilots and mechanics,” Korman said. “Especially in outlying areas like this. For example, we have no mechanics on this field at all.”
According to the website sokanu.com, aircraft mechanics earn a median salary of $58,370 per year. Salaries typically start from $34,770 and go up to $89,050.
One young partaker of the Young Eagle ride, Korden, said, “It was my second flight. I came last year, same thing. I saw the water park so that was cool.”
Busily painting on the side of Safe Launch’s Cessna 182, which was on display and worked as a canvas to keep the kids busy while co-founder Janet Rowse talked to parents about the dangers of mixing alcohol and drug abuse with the young developing mind, Korden didn’t seem to be terribly interested in his future prospects in aviation, despite the respectable salary.
And if flying in an airplane wasn’t your thing, as a pilot or passenger, the North County Cloud Clippers were there to provide people with an alternative.
“We fly every Saturday and Sunday on the East side of the runway,” Vice President Bob Martz said. “Anyone can come and watch and everyone is welcome to join the club. There is a nominal fee but heck, it’s a lot less than most of these model airplanes out here on display, that’s for sure.”
You may contact reporter Madeline Vail at [email protected] for questions, comments or feedback.