By Ron VandenBoom
Jim Barkely undid his daughter's seat belt so she could stand on his lap and look out the window of the airplane.
"She just looked out that window and grinned with this big smile on her face," he said.
Three-year-old Debbie and her 14-year-old sister, Rebecca, were just two of 58 children between the ages of 8 and 18 to receive free rides during the annual Montana Pilots Association Fly-In Saturday at the Big Sandy Airport.
"I like it I like flying," said Rebecca after completing her first flight. "Yes, I'd like to do it again."
The flights were sponsored by Great Falls Chapter 1141 of the Experimental Aircraft Association as part of the Young Eagles program. The program, according to group treasurer Gary Crowder, is trying to give 1 million plane rides to children before the 100th anniversary of the first successful airplane flight by the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, N. C., in 1903.
The national association is currently more than halfway to its goal, Crowder said.
Eight pilots participated in Saturday's flights using their own planes and fuel to provide the free rides.
Each child also received a certificate stating that he or she "has experienced the true adventure of flight and become a young eagle."
The pilots also provided free rides to several disabled people.
But free airplane rides weren't the only reason for the Fly-In, sponsored by the the North Central Hangar of the Montana Pilots Association.
"One of the big things about the Fly-In is trying to make the community aware of the airport and the different things the airport is used for," said John Anderson, president of the North Central Hangar.
Anderson pointed to mail delivery, an air ambulance, and agricultural aviation as a few of the services airports provide.
"It's more of an airport appreciation day," he said.
It was an appreciation day that attracted more than 350 people and about 30 aircraft from around the state.
A breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage and pancakes was served to more than 250 visitors, and barbecued hamburgers, provided by local 4-H groups, helped to ease the hunger of the lunch crowd.
The breakfast, according to Anderson, also serves as a fund-raiser for what he calls "post scholarships" for new pilots. The pilots receive $50 when they solo, $75 when they pass their written test, and $100 when they pass their private pilot check ride, Anderson said.
A 1941 Peterfield LP-65, a 1950 Piper Supercub PA-18, and a 1978 Pits Special were a few of the aircraft spectators got to see lined up along the tarmac, but some of the most interesting planes were the homemade planes built from kits.
"It's a cheap way to fly," said Wayne Silvan of Big Sandy about his Challenger II homemade pusher aircraft. "It's fun it's a real kick in the butt."
The plane cost about $17,000, which is quite a bit cheaper than buying a factory-built plane, Silvan said. "Especially considering you can do your own maintenance on it."
Silvan, who has been a pilot for about 12 years, bought the kit a little more than a year ago from a Big Sandy dealer, he said. It flies at about 70 mph and lands at about 40 mph. It generates 53 hp and only weighs about 460 pounds empty.
"It's quite a little toy," he said.
Other types of toys on display at the Fly-In were about 15 modified cars and motorcycles.
Max Cederberg drove his modified 1937 Chevrolet flat-back sedan from Turner to participate in the show.
Cederberg purchased it in Great Falls about five years ago and restored it himself. He estimates he has invested more than $20,000 in the car.
"I've always been interested in old cars," he said. "Ever since I was in high school. This is just a disease a sickness."
The maroon-colored street rod is equipped with air conditioning, power steering, CD player, and a powerful 350-cubic-inch V-8.
Visitors were also treated to demonstrations of crop dusting and what Anderson called "a flour bombing demonstration," in which pilots were given a pound of flour and from an altitude of about 100 feet tried to drop it as close as they could to a barrel.