Excitement from sixth graders at Wahpeton Middle School reached new heights Friday, Oct. 4.

Then again, so did many of the sixth graders.

Harry Stern Airport, Wahpeton, hosted the “Young Eagles.” Approximately 90 students took part in this year’s free flying lesson, a Red River Valley tradition since 2013.

“It was really cool, probably my best experience,” Aubrey Odens said. “It was my first time in a plane and I loved it.”

Young Eagles is made possible through the Experimental Aircraft Association. Dave Jennen, coordinator of the Young Eagles chapter in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, was once again in charge. Six pilots volunteered their planes, fuel and time to provide the lessons.

Students went up in the air three at a time, getting the opportunity to see locations like their school and Walmart from a new angle.

“When we landed, my ears popped because they’re trying to get used to the ground, but it was a really nice view. It was really cool,” Tori Bult said.

Gabe Campbell, who flew with Odens and Bult aboard Ben Felling’s plane, agreed, saying he had a highlight experience.

While some students had flown in an airplane before, others had not. Sophia Barth said she had a fear of heights when she learned about the opportunity.

“I was nervous and excited at the same time,” Barth said.

Barth and her classmates have recently learned about the principles of flight. Teacher Connie Pederson said anyone could ask a sixth grader about lift, thrust and other components and get an excited answer.

Colin Brownlee, Pederson’s colleague, observed the youths’ excitement.

“This is one of the coolest field trips, I think, for the kids to have. They have the opportunity to fly at a young age. There’s a lot of first time flyers, so there’s a little bit of nervousness, but that’s okay.”

Brownlee and Pederson are among the people thankful for the Young Eagles volunteers and coordinators.

“Dave Jennen — this is all because of him and Cindy Beck. They organized and got this going,” Pederson said.

Since 1992, the Young Eagles program has provided free introductory flights to more than 2 million youth. The experience is available to anyone between ages 8-17.

“It’s the only program of its kind, with the sole mission to introduce and inspire kids in the world of aviation,” the Experimental Aircraft Association stated. “These flights are made possible through the generosity of EAA member volunteers.”

Youth interested in flight, aviation or aviation-related fields can apply for scholarships from the EAA. The association is accepting applications for flight training scholarships through Friday, Nov. 1.

More information is available at the association’s website, www.eaa.org.

Seven total planes were exhibited and flown during this year’s event in Wahpeton. For more photos, visit www.wahpeton dailynews.com.

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