Community, Latest News

Taking flight to a career: Morgantown airport to host ‘Young Eagles Day’ Sept. 30 for children and teens interested in aviation

Dayton and Kittyhawk may have had Wilbur and Orville — but Morgantown and Monongalia County had Ben Garrison.

Garrison, as local lore goes, was a magnificent young man in a (tenuous) flying machine on that August afternoon, in that Mon County field, back in 1910.

He coaxed the bumping, bouncing and groaning craft across that grassy expanse — and when it was done, he had achieved a cruising altitude of 25 feet, before touching back down in that same field (with more bumping, bouncing and groaning).

For his lofty achievement, the pioneering pilot also achieved at least a footnote in the annals of Mon’s aviation history.

His was the first flight ever, in this locale.

A lot of things have changed in 113 years. The Morgantown Municipal Airport is a bustling place these days, with commercial planes and two-seaters making full use of the runway.

They city’s airport hopes to set a flight plan Sept. 30 for young people who just might interested in the work that involves slipping free of the surly bonds of Earth.

The airport is hosting Young Eagles Day from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. that day.

Local pilots who are members of the Experimental Aircraft Association Inc. will also be on the runway, offering free plane rides to children from ages 8-17, provided there’s parental or guardian consent.

Last year’s planned day was grounded due to weather, so organizers are glad to be back in the taxi position for this one.

Besides the plane rides, where passengers will enjoy eagle’s-view vantages of Milan Puskar Stadium and other iconic city landmarks from above, the pilots will also discuss aviation as a career.

As if unfolding from the window seat, West Virginia’s educational landscape in the 21st century is shifting. That’s because more and more students are looking toward STEM careers related to science, technology, engineering and math.

Aviation and STEM, said Richard Judy, a Young Eagles coordinator, are made to take flight together.

“By introducing kids to the aviation field at a young age, it piques their interest, and they can begin to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to them,” Judy said.

You don’t have to have wings to have a career, the coordinator said.

“From pilots to mechanics, air traffic controllers and management, all of the roles are equally important, and we are always looking to lead future generations to this career path.”

Literal, on-the-fly primers on the particulars of flight — how it is that something heavier than air can turn into the exact opposite in no time at all — will also be delivered by the pilots during those jaunts around Morgantown.

Email organizers at for more particulars on the day.

Aviation is all around us in this area.

At White Hall and South Fairmont in Marion County, engineers — including a host of Morgantown and Mon County natives — are working at a NASA facility on the software programs of the crafts that will land astronauts on Mars someday.

And many of them were on teams for launches and missions at Cape Canaveral in Florida and the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Just a short hop over from Morgantown to Harrison County, Bridgeport is the home of the state’s burgeoning avionics industry.

Garrison, meanwhile, isn’t the only included in the local aviation annals.

The late Ralph Albertazzie, the Air Force One pilot whose passengers included John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, grew up in Morgantown.

Jim Snyder, the national broadcaster and newsman who, as “Jim Slade,” covered the NASA from its Mercury days to the space shuttle, is also from here and got his start in local radio when he was still in high school.

TWEET @DominionPostWV