Tanner Reichert, a sixth-grader at Laurel Nokomis School, chewed a bite of his donut and watched as the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office helicopter descended for a landing Friday evening at Florida Flight Training Center – which was hosting the school’s 2022 Mother/Son Flight Night at Venice Municipal Airport.
Ready to be rescued as Michael Trubkin, 10, and Reid Weibley,7, trying out the rescue basket as United States Coast Guard’s aircrew member Stephen Bedwell explains some of the procedures during a basket rescue. Students at Laurel Nokomis School and their moms learned about career options in avionics and flight at the 2022 Mother/Son Flight Night held Friday, April 29, 2022, at Florida Flight Training Center, 220 Airport Avenue E, Venice.
“He likes airplanes,” mom Lindsay Reichert said, while Tanner patiently swallowed.
Once finished, he said airplanes are “neat, they’re fast,” then added he wanted to fly someday.
Asked what he wanted to fly, he paused and said, “Fly a helicopter.
‘I’d like to fly that one,” Tanner added, with a nod to the law-enforcement helicopter.
Ann Allen, a parent with the Laurel Nokomis Parent Teacher Organization, wanted to try something a little different for the mother-son annual date night and thought the airport venue offered a perfect opportunity to keep the boys interested and perhaps whet their appetites for science, technology engineering and math.
Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit, (a 2012 Bell 407GX helicopter) detective Hayden Gallof, poses with Rachael Cornwell and her sons Addison, 9, and Aston, 6.
About 100 moms, with 175 sons, RSVP’d for the event, which sold out in two days.
“I just wanted to think bigger than doing it at a bowling alley or a jump place; I wanted to give the boys and the moms a cool experience together,” said Allen, who’s not an aspiring pilot herself. “We just decided to reach out to the airport, we came to them with the idea and they were so receptive.”
“It’s an early introduction to the aviation industry; who knows where this may take them?”
A door to career possibilities
In addition to the sheriff’s helicopter and the U.S. Coast Guard helicopter, the evening included four static aircraft displays outside and a fifth inside the Florida Flight Maintenance hangar, as well as a cadre of flight instructors and members of the Venice EAA Young Eagles, who were available to talk about airplanes, flight and possible career futures.
Moritz Koester, the new CEO of Florida Flight Training, said it was easy to say “yes” to the parents group when he was approached.
“I have kids myself and I know how great it is to offer opportunities like this one,” said Koester, who was joined by his wife and three children – including their two sons, Lias, 5, and Joshua, 3. “I was inspired very early on to get into aviation myself and it’s just a pleasure to be able to open our doors and share our passion with kids.”
Some of the adults on hand, like Paul Cellez, Young Eagles Coordinator with the EAA, are old hands at introducing youths to flight.
“That’s what we’re here for, offer them airplane rides, we have rallies once a month and we have local pilots give rides to the kids,” Cellez said.
The program started in 1992 to give youths aged 8 to 17 an opportunity to fly in a general aviation aircraft. There were no flights Friday, but one can learn about upcoming events by visiting https://www.youngeaglesday.org or by emailing Cellez at Grumpyflyer1@gmail.com.