The purpose of Young Eagles Day is to give young people their first flight, said Floyd Sanderson, a coordinator with the Young Eagles program.
"It's so they will have some idea of what it's like to fly in a small airplane," he said.
About a dozen local pilots donate their time and aircraft for the event, and local flight school Air Carriage and its owner Henry Roberson donated three airplanes and the fuel for the trips, which usually last 10-15 minutes in the air. Only children age 8-17 are allowed to fly.
The most commonly asked questions while kids are in the air include, " 'How high are we?' 'How long have we been up here?' " Sanderson said. "Anything that pops into their minds. There's often questions about the control tower and how it works."
After their flight, the children receive a certificate congratulating them on their flight with their name, their pilot's name and the pilot's signature.
A form filled out by parents before the flight is turned in to the national Young Eagles program in Oshkosh, Wis., and entered into the "world's largest logbook," where every Young Eagle Day participant has their name. The logbook has more than 1.6 million entries, Sanderson said.
"What we're really trying to do is get them exposed to aviation," he said. "Our purpose is to help aviation keep moving and it's not going to if it's filled with just a bunch of old guys like me."
Parents are "enthusiastic," Sanderson said, and are often just as excited as the children.
"I have not seen one parent that's not enthusiastic. I think they want to give their kids an opportunity to experience this."
Daisy Emerson of Chico brought her children Claire, 13, and Ethan, 9, to the event after her son saw an advertisement for it at the air museum some months ago.
"Ethan's wanted to be a pilot ever since he came to the air show," Emerson said.
"We were a little nervous sending them up there without us," she laughed after both children were back on solid ground. "I think it's a really nice thing that they're doing this."
Both Claire and Ethan said they enjoyed the flight. "It was awesome," Claire said, excited that she was able to pick out the family's favorite camping grounds from the sky and that "we got there in five minutes!"
Ethan said he saw cows that were the size of ants, and he will be excited to come back next year.
He already knows the type of plane he wants to fly when he gets older: "A BD-5J microjet," Ethan said with a smile.
Staff writer Robin Epley can be reached at 896-7761 or repley@ chicoer.com.