Flying by the Seat
of Their Pants
Helping blind students experience the thrill of flight
EAA CHAPTER 33 IN VINTON, IOWA, recently hosted students from the
Iowa Braille School of Vinton. Sara Larkin, a teacher at the school,
arranged for a group of 17 students in the summer program to
participate after her children attended a Young Eagles event years
earlier. The students, all of whom are visually impaired, are given
the opportunity to feel the different parts of the plane.
Steve Ciha, EAA 371807, flew two girls in his RV- 7. He was
concerned that his passengers would have difficulty getting into the
aircraft. “Imagine any pilot trying to do this blindfolded,” he said.
“But the kids did great.”
“I really didn’t know what to expect from the flight,” Steve
said. “Every kid I ever take flying, I always tell them that if they
don’t like flying, just let me know and we will circle the airport and
land immediately. To this date, I have never had a kid tell me that,
and these two girls were no different.”
Ron White, EAA 124548, flew three trips in his Long-EZ.
He described having to tell each Young Eagle what
was happening. “I would tell them what altitudes
and speeds we were at; when we’re landing I would
tell them how I was flying the pattern,” he said.
Passengers who were feeling bold enough were given
the controls so they could feel what the airplane was
Steve said a friend asked him what the children got
out of the flights, assuming that not being able to see
would make an airplane flight meaningless. “We with
sight often forget that there are many more senses
involved in flight than just sight,” Steve said. “For
these girls, the lack of sight heightened their sense of
sound and motion. They were truly flying ‘by the seat
of their pants.’”