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.”
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.'”
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.”
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.