Pa. man aims high for goal

Free flights will be offered Sunday.



NEW CASTLE, Pa. — Jack Thompson is giving youngsters a whole new perspective while meeting a personal goal.

The Grove City man has been taking youngsters up in airplanes to expose them to the world of flying since 1994 as part of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program. And now he’s getting close to meeting his personal goal of flying 1,000 youngsters.

The program was launched in 1992 by the national organization to offer young people ages 8 to 17 the experience of flight. The group’s goal was to fly one million youngsters by December 2003, the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first flight. The group made its goal by that October and has continued on with the program, now having flown 1.3 million youngsters.

To date, Thompson, 68, has flown 924 youngsters. He’d like to hit the 1,000 goal by the end of March.

Although Thompson has been flying kids in the Young Eagles program since 1994, he’s really made an effort to take to the air more this year.

In January, while visiting his daughter in the state of Washington, he flew 33 youngsters on Young Eagle flights and received recognition from a national aviation school for flying the most Young Eagles in the month nationwide.

A pilot since 1959, Thompson first became enamored with flight while enlisted in the Air Force. He left the military and went onto a career as an actuary, but continued flying in his personal time.

In the early 1990s, Thompson and his wife operated an aviation business out of the Grove City Airport, but he now just flies for personal pleasure.

He’s offering the free flights Sunday to youngsters out the New Castle Municipal Airport in Union Township. Thompson said he rents a four-seat Cessna 172 for the flights.

The youngsters go up for about 10 or 15 minutes, hitting about 1,000 feet of altitude, he said.

“I give them a chance to take the controls if they want. Most of them just enjoy the scenery,” Thompson said.

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