July 27, 2017 - What does it take to get youngsters involved in aviation? Simply the opportunity to do it affordably, according to Eddie Clements, founder and general manager of High Country Aviation Workshop for Kids (HAWK). Eddie and seven of his young HAWK members arrived at Wittman Regional Airport flying a group of aircraft, which includes a Cherokee 140 the kids restored themselves.
Based at Mack Mesa Airport in Mack, Colorado, HAWK’s goal is simple: Introduce the youths of Mesa County to the world of aviation. The group, formed three years ago, rebuilds and restores aircraft, and then members fly them to earn their pilot certificates. Every Saturday, HAWK holds workshops where young members spend the day working on aircraft. Along with the Cherokee, the seven-aircraft fleet includes an airworthy Dakota Hawk, while a Velocity, Zenith 601 and 701, and Cessna 172 are undergoing restoration.
The group also has two hot air balloons. HAWK works closely with EAA Chapter 800, whose members help the kids refine their building techniques. A&Ps oversee all of the work done on the aircraft. For each three hours of work a HAWK member puts in, they receive one hour of free aircraft use for flight instruction. Braden Hobbs, who has about 25 hours and has recently soloed, said he’s spent just $66 dollars for use of an aircraft since he started flying, plus $1,500 in fuel. Braden, 16, flew in a recently completed RV-14 with owner and builder Bill Marvel.
The HAWK group, seven youngsters strong, is camped in Row 86 in the Vintage area, with the Cherokee, N9606W, that sports a beautiful new blue and white livery, applied gratis by West Star Aviation at its Grand Junction, Colorado, paint shop. All materials the nonprofit 501(c)3 HAWK uses are donated, and lunch is provided during their Saturday sessions.
Meanwhile, it’s not only kids that the program inspires. After Logan Boe joined, his mother — a lapsed pilot — was inspired to get back into flying. She recently purchased a Cessna 172, with the assistance of HAWK. As a result, Logan and his mom flew to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh this year in the Cessna. “I’m learning how to rivet, and learning how to preflight,” Logan said. “It’s just such a great educational program; anyone into aviation should participate in it.”