Area children got the chance to take the controls and pilot an airplane in Killeen on Saturday.
The Flying Vikings held its 10th annual flying event at the Central Texas College hangar at Skylark Field on Saturday. The event was held for children ages 6 through 18, who have chronic illnesses or physical disabilities.
Dolores Groves-Marshall and John Marshall of Killeen brought their daughter Kimi, 9. Kimi has a chromosomal disorder, and this was her first time to fly an airplane.
“She is both excited and nervous,” her mother said. “I am so happy that they celebrate the kids.”
According to Paul Hansen, founder of the Flying Vikings, the nonprofit got its name through his own name’s origin.
“Hansen is Danish in origin, and so are Vikings,” he said. “These kids are all battling something; they are warriors in their own right.”
He said some of the children who participate may have ADHD, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome or cancer.
“A lot of these kids are used to just hospitals and clinics, so this is different for them, it’s something that 99 percent of people will never get to do,” Hansesn said. “They’re not going [back to school] to play football or baseball, but they can go back to school and say they flew a plane.”
There were about 20 children signed up for a flight, coming from all over Central Texas. Five planes and pilots were ready for their passengers. Killeen SWAT members came out to lift the children into and out of the front of the plane alongside the pilot, with a parent sitting in the back seat. Once the plane reached a high enough altitude, the pilot handed the yoke over to the child to steer the plane. Each flight lasted 20 to 30 minutes, and at the end, each child was presented an authentic flight certificate.
Every child got off their respective planes with a smile on his or her face.
Each plane and every service was donated for the event. Many other people and organizations in the community came out to show their support. CTC provided the hangar; the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce and Harker Heights Fire Department were present; the Harker Heights Lions Club was there to give free vision screenings; also present were the Harker Heights Public Library and the Friends of the Library, the Girl Scouts, and Bikers Against Child Abuse, to name a few, as well as many local restaurants who donated food and beverages for the families present.
“My whole mission is about the kids,” Hansen said, adding he finds the experience, “very, very humbling … I’m blessed to be in a position to be doing this.”