It started with the excitement Kjersti saw in a young girl’s eyes when she learned that her favorite softball coach could fly an airplane! Word quickly spread among the team. The idea of a “Girls Day at the Airport” was born.
Kjersti Boe, a member of the Minnesota Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, rounded up friends and fellow Ninety-Nines to help with tours of the Minneapolis reliever airport, Airlake, a single strip, non-towered airport on the outer edge of the suburbs. Local EAA Chapter 25 was recruited to give EAA Young Eagles rides as well.
It was difficult for Kjersti to get a firm count of how many girls would show up. Her best guess was maybe 10, give or take five.
At 9:30 in the morning, April 10, Ninety-Nines and EAA members started showing up at the airport. A little after ten o’clock, a woman walked through the FBO door with three girls in tow. Then another small group came in, then another. One little girl, about 8 years old, stopped firmly at the threshold and asked, “Do I have to fly in an airplane today?” She was assured that it was perfectly okay for her to stay on the ground if that was what she wanted, and if she changed her mind, that would be okay too. Satisfied, she entered the FBO to join the excited buzz of the other girls.
The next few hours passed with a flurry of activity. People came and went. Those staying were either in the lobby of the FBO or on the sunny ramp-side patio, or escorted in small groups to hangars and tied-down aircraft for educational tours. Clusters of girls ranging in age from 4 to 15 chattered and fidgeted while waiting for their turn to get in an airplane. They watched other girls, focused and silent, get their pre-flight briefing from an EAA Young Eagles pilot. Girls returning from their first flight with smiles that radiated through their entire body, were mobbed. “What was it like?” “Weren’t you scared?” “Where did you go?” “What did you see?” “What was it like??”
As the flying came to an end, Kjersti’s girls with their sisters and friends had a picnic lunch while they recapped the thrill of their morning adventure. In a corner of the room, though, was a girl in tears. Her dad was explaining to her that he was sorry she missed her opportunity, but the flights were done for the day. The EAA members had packed up their materials and left. Apparently, the girl hadn’t wanted to fly until she saw the excitement of the others when they landed. This was witnessed by the husband of a Ninety-Nines, who had stopped by to lend a hand. He couldn’t provide an EAA Young Eagles certificate, but said he would be happy to give the girl a ride if she wanted one. Her dad agreed. The girl lit up, grabbed a friend by the hand and scurried out to the Piper Tri-Pacer parked on the ramp. She got her flight and the thrill of seeing her town from 2,000 feet. She was beaming when they landed. As soon as everyone exited the plane, she ran over to the pilot, squeezed him in a bear hug and said, “THANK YOU!!”