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Mills River pilot spreads word on experimental aircraft

A pilot from Mills River has given more than 100 young people a free demonstration airplane ride as part of the Experimental Aircraft Association's Young Eagles program.

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Among the more than 45,000 pilots around the world who have donated their time and aircraft to the effort is Mike Gaffney of Mills River.

All pilots in the Young Eagles program explain the safe operation of airplanes and principles of flight before the short trips. Young Eagles flights are provided by volunteer EAA-member pilots in aircraft ranging from the newest airplanes to vintage biplanes. Such interesting aircraft as gliders, helicopters, and even hot air balloons and blimps have also been used for Young Eagles flights.

Since 1992, the EAA Young Eagles program has flown more than 1.7 million young people free of charge. Recent research shows that these young people are five times more likely to become pilots than non-Young Eagles. They also already comprise more than seven percent of the nation's pilot population under age 35, as nearly 20,000 pilots are former Young Eagles participants.

Participating young people become official Young Eagles with the flight, with the names of the pilots and the participants are also included in the "World's Largest Logbook" that is on permanent display in the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wis., and online through the Young Eagles website.