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Jennen flies 500th flight with Young Eagles program [UPDATED]

Published 4:28am Monday, May 6, 2013 Updated 6:31am Monday, May 6, 2013

By Rian Bosse

On Wednesday, David Jennen met a local student at the airport in Fergus Falls, explained a few important functions inside the aircraft they would be flying and took her up to see the world a little differently. For Jennen, it was flight number 500 with an area student.

Friday, he added to that milestone, joining 12 other pilots in flying nearly 200 Fergus Falls eighth-graders as part of Young Eagle Day at the Fergus Falls Municipal Airport.

“It’s just the satisfaction of seeing them up there for the first time,” Jennen said. It’s that exhilarating moment that has kept him and his wife, Bonnie, with the program for over 10 years.

The day is put on by the local chapter of the Experimental Airfcraft Association. Originally limited in the number of kids that were involved, the program welcomes area public schools from Fergus, Rothsay, Pelican Rapids, Battle Lake and Hillcrest to take to the air.

That has brought Jennen out of the pilot seat an into the classroom. While going over what they will experience when they go up for their flights, he spends time encouraging students in other aspects of life.

“The thing we do with this program is talk to kids about setting goals,” Jennen said. “It’s about having dreams. What I tell the kids is you get a dream or a goal and if you work towards it, it will take you somewhere. Even if you don’t achieve it.”

Jennen grew up near the airport in Fergus Falls and watched the planes take off as a kid. While he never became a professional pilot, watching aircrafts take flight inspired what he now teaches the students he takes as co-pilots.

“First of all, flying is a challenge,” Jennen said. “Any pilot will tell you each time they go up there they learn something, even if it isn’t necessarily about flying.”

Jennen and the other ground and flight volunteers will continue to grow the program, and with local support for the area public schools, skies look clear for the program’s future. With a number of other pilots over the 100 flight milestone and more volunteers coming in to fly, the hard work they put into sharing their hobby has created lasting memories for the area.

“I hope that some of them get the bug to fly,” Jennen said. “But really, my main hope is that the kids just find something to be passionate about.”

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