COPA flight school spots booked within hours

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COPA pilots Dave Barnier, left and Aaron McPhail have put together the COPA for Kids flight event again this year, with the available 200 time slots fully booked within hours of registration opening. A big hit in the community, the big hearts of the volunteer pilots ensure kids get a positive introduction to aviation and possibly, motivation to become a pilot.

When you love to fly, you want to share that joy with other people. That’s what the COPA Flight 203 Chatham-Kent pilots want to share with area youth during their second annual COPA for Kids event Sept. 7.

Unfortunately for some kids but good for the event, the 200 spots available for young people have already been taken since registration opened Aug. 24, but organizers ask people interested to keep watching the COPA website in case of cancellations.

Held at the Chatham-Kent Municipal Airport, COPA for Kids is a one-day free event for kids eight to 17 years of age to introduce them to the world of general aviation. Kids spend about two hours of their day learning a bit about airplanes, flying, and their local airport, topped off with a flight in a small aircraft.

To date, the program has introduced over 23,000 young Canadians to general aviation, according to organizers and COPA pilots Dave Barnier and Aaron McPhail.

Last year, the first year for the local COPA for Kids event, saw the 150 spots for kids here snapped up in just six hours, and McPhail said they would love to take more, but upping the spots to 200 this year is all they could do with the resources available.

“We want to make this a positive aviation experience and maybe inspire the next generation of pilots,” McPhail said. “The smiles of the kids as they come off the plane; that’s what makes this all worthwhile. We’d do this every weekend if we could.”

The COPA pilots and the friends they recruit volunteer their time, fuel and aircraft to make the event happen with the help of sponsors Maple City Homes and Mike’s Place Restaurant.

With Barnier and McPhail, their love of flying is evident, and they and their fellow COPA pilots want to make sure kids that may not have an opportunity to experience flying in a small plane to get that chance – free of charge.

There are 11 experienced pilots with 11 aircraft who will be taking the kids up around 2,200 feet to see the municipality from the air.

To make sure kids know that being a pilot is open to anyone with the ambition, Barnier said they have a female pilot participating this year to be a mentor to all the girls who sign up. Last year, he said about 50 per cent of the registrants were female.

Participants in the event will experience ground school, with the older kids getting their first real log book and a certificate recognized by Transport Canada that allows them to write the exam if they want to continue training.

After their flight, there will be hotdogs and drinks for the kids and their families. McPhail said to expect to be at the airport for about two hours and he emphasized how important it was to be on time for your scheduled flight so it doesn’t hold up the group.

After ground school, the kids will experience a 15-20 minute flight around Chatham and back to the airport in a small plane where they will be up close and personal with the pilot.

Barnier thanked the Chatham-Kent Municipal Airport staff for their support of the event and said they will be happy to show off what he considers a “hidden gem” and great asset for the community.

For more information or to check for openings due to cancellation, go to the COPA website at http://copayck.com/copa-for-kids-kid-registration/. Bookings will close Sept. 6 to allow COPA to make boarding passes for the kids involved.

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