PIQUA — They say that the best things in life are worth waiting for and that certainly seemed to be the case with fourteen-year-old Kayla Hughes of Centerville.
Hughes, who will be a freshman at Centerville High School this fall, traveled to Piqua on Tuesday morning to climb into an airplane with the legendary Sean D. Tucker.
Her flight, part of the Vectren Dayton Air Show, was postponed due to weather in June so the flight was rescheduled for Tucker’s return to the Dayton area this week.
When in the midwest, Tucker practices out of Piqua Airport / Hartzell Field so arraignments were made to have a “re-convening” of the 2018 Vectren Dayton Air Show to fulfill Hughes dream.
Hughes earned her Young Eagles flight by submitting the winning aviation essay during this year’s essay contest. Her submission was the unanimous choice by the judges who were impressed by her writing and enthusiasm.
The soon-to-be Young Eagle met National Aviation Hall of Fame enshrinee Tucker at the airport as the sun shone on a beautiful clear morning. She was fitted with a parachute then climbed into Oracle’s Extra 300, a two seat aerobatic aircraft, that is part of the Oracle fleet.
Once airborne, Tucker and Hughes flew in formation with the photo ship for a bit before peeling off to do some dancing in the skies.
Hughes was given instructions in how to perform some basic maneuvers and upon taking control of the aircraft, immediately performed not one, but two, barrel rolls. She then proceeded to perform some loops.
The pair returned to the Piqua Airport and both Hughes and Tucker climbed out of the Extra grinning from ear to ear. For Hughes, it was the elation of the her first flight in a small airplane. For Tucker, it was the joy of knowing that he had just introduced one more person to the world of flying.
“It was so much fun,” said Hughes, “It was great! It was a fun experience with a lot of excitement.”
The teen said of the annual essay contest that earned her a flight with Tucker, “I think that the essay contest is important to encourage both writing development and interest in aviation, especially here in Ohio where aviation is such an important aspect.”
Tucker is the National Chairman of the EAA Young Eagles program that saw Young Eagle number 2,000,000 take to the sky during the annual EAA Convention in Oshkosh, WI in 2016.
Kayla Hughes winning essay:
I fidget in my seat, scooting around to get comfortable. I’m a little nervous, having never flown in anything smaller than a commercial plane.
My anxious fog is broken by the pilot calling back to me. he tells me to fasten in and take a few deep breaths. I comply. In, out. In, out. My pulse slows.
After checking to make sure I’m alright, he announces that we’ll start to ascend. Almost immediately, I feel us leave the ground. I feel that lightness in my body, that glorious defiance of gravity. I barely realize that I’ve squeezed my eyes shut, absorbed in the sensation. I blink them open, and gasp as I see what lies past the windows A cerulean sky with billowing cumulus clouds. They reach out to me, beacons of hope and brightness.
I lean toward the glass on my left to peer at the world below. A building normally three stories high appears infinitesimal. Cars are gnats, little specs of color that I have to squint to see. It’s breathtaking.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” I can hear the the smile in the pilot’s voice. I nod back, but upon realizing that he probably can’t see it – too busy flying the plane and all – respond with an affirmative, “Uh huh.”
All too soon, we begin to descend. I almost let out a whine but hold it back. The fluttering in my gut fades, and as soon as the plane comes to a complete stop, I grin like the Cheshire cat.
“Oh, thank you! Thank you!” I exclaim, grateful for this marvelous experience that I’ll never forget. As I hop out of my seat, unbuckled and energized, i can’t believe how luck I am to fly. Humanity didn’t touch the skies until 1903, and I’m blessed with the privilege.