Friend and fellow Foxbat pilot, Norm Hite, sent me the attached clipping from the Australian Saturday Daily Telegraph. It’s all about 2-year old Jonah Thomas who regularly flies around and above New South Wales with his father Daniel from their home airfield at Orange, NSW.
It instantly reminded me of when I took my own grandson for a flight about 18 months ago, using a similar sort of car seat, which, as in a car, makes use of the installed vehicle safety belts. He was about 3 years old at the time and I was concerned about his reaction when we took off – would he be OK? Would he throw a tantrum and demand to be back on the ground as soon as we started to climb? His hands and feet couldn’t reach any of the controls but how would I deal with screaming flailing 3-year old if that’s what happened? The answer of course would be to calmly complete the circuit and land safely, returning the distraught child to his parents.
However, I needn’t have worried. I talked him through everything we did, including some turns on the taxi-way and explained the noise of the engine run-up and why I was doing it. He was wearing some old Bose noise-cancelling headsets, the only ones I had which adjusted small enough to fit him properly. As we took off, he was peering out of the door/window at the ground and seemed to be silent and transfixed by the view. I was still a bit apprehensive but when I told him we were turning [down wind] to land his reply said it all: “No, NOT YET Papy Peter!”. So we turned away from the airfield – as it turned out, much to his mother’s concern – and flew around the area for 20 minutes or so before returning.
It is really fantastic taking kids for flights – provided they want to go and their parents are completely OK with it. It’s important to chat to them all the time and to tell them everything you are doing, so there are no surprises. Make sure they know that you can land again as soon as they want. If it’s their first flight, make sure it’s a clear smooth day. Don’t make any sudden control changes – up, down or sideways. Point out lots of things on the ground, which helps lessen the chance of air sickness – if you can fly over where they live, so much the better.
The biggest regret I have was not putting my GoPro in the cabin, pointed at my grandson during the short flight. I’m sure he would have treasured the video and I know I’d love to watch it over and again; after all, he lives in Amsterdam and I don’t get to see him very much.