May 26, 2018 8:55 pm
Updated: May 27, 2018 7:52 am

‘That’s so awesome’: Toronto event sees dozens of kids become ‘pilots’ for a day

WATCH ABOVE: Dozens of lucky kids went up, up, and away in private planes as part of an educational event that just launched in Toronto. Jasmine Pazzano has more.

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Ten-year-old Christine Guo says her first time in a small plane also marked her first time helping to steer one.

“I was like, ‘Oh no! I might crash or something,'” said Guo, who is from Scarborough. “When I started driving the plane, it was…really fun.”

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She is one of more than 60 children from across the province who experienced the art of flying as part of COPA for Kids‘ first-ever Toronto event. Saturday’s program saw children ride in, and be at the helm of, small airplanes (with a professional pilot at each of their sides) flying out of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.

“Every one of them has a huge smile on [his or her] face,” said Jeff Page, the pilot who rode with Guo. “When they land, they’re jumping up and down, and they’re screaming. They go, ‘That’s so awesome.'”

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The free event gives children a glimpse of what a pilot’s life can be, and the event’s team hopes they will consider a career in the sky. The Canadian Owners and Pilots Association says there is a global shortage of pilots, estimating up to 300,000 of them will be needed worldwide within the next 20 years.

“There’s a pretty large demand for…commercial pilots,” said Phil St. Jean, the event’s organizer and the president of the Toronto Island Pilots Association. “So, the more people [who] get involved in flying—[who] decide to have a career in flying—they’ll be able to fill that need for flying later on.”

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After taking their flights, many of the kids said they could be heading in that direction, including Cici Jing. “Before, I [didn’t] really want to be the pilot, but [after] today, I think I want to be a pilot.”

“I really liked the plane,” said nine-year-old Howard Zhang. “It was really fun.”

Guo said she aspires to become a pilot, and she’s hoping to inspire other girls to take up flying. “I want to bring out the pilot-driving in females,” she said.

The COPA for Kids team hosts events across the country and has introduced more than 23,000 young Canadians to the world of general aviation.

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