For many, it was their first flight. For one, it confirmed his desire to one day become a pilot.

There was a sea of tents just off the tarmac at Orange County Airport this weekend where scouts spent the night learning about the airport; cooking pancakes the next morning, enticing pilots to land at the airport.

Local Scouts gathered at the airport this weekend to complete requirements for their aviation merit badge. Boy Scout Troops 1 and 62 and Sea Scout Explorers Ship 2012, the “Altair” had 37 scouts in attendance along with numerous scout masters and chaperones.

Scout Master Troop 62 Dennis Blowers planned the event. “We’re working on our Aviation merit badge and part of the selected requirements is to take a flight in a small aircraft; perform a preflight inspection; visit an airport; understand the instruments of the aircraft, how the flight surfaces work and those types of things. The boys have been working on it all January and February,” said Blowers. “Sabine Aviation sponsored us with the fuel and two pilots and two airplanes to take the scouts up to satisfy that one requirement.”

Scouts wave to one of the pilots as they take off from the Orange County Airport.

Tom Foreman, owner of Sabine Aviation, and Lee Rector took scouts on short flights in their planes three at a time. Several scouts said it was scary at first, but it didn’t take long to get over their fears.

Jordan Garcia said, “I loved it, it was fun.”

Shannon McDonald’s first thoughts when getting off the plane were, “It was cool. I was scared at first, but I’m not anymore.”

“It was amazing. To get the experience of flying, it was awesome,” said Aaron Blowers. “It was the first time I’ve ever been off the ground.”

Raymond Bandeau said it was scary until you get used to it.

“These kids love it,” said Vickie Foreman, Tom’s wife. “I hope they do this every year.”

Dennis Blowers was pleased with the participation of pilots and passengers of about 10-12 plans that flew in from surrounding airports so scouts could observe landings and take-offs. Several local pilots that hanger their planes at the airport also came to support the scouts.

David Olsen and members of the ExxonMobil Flying Club flew in joined by friend and flight instructor from Beaumont, John Parigi.

Scoutmaster Blowers said, “They spent a lot of time with the boys this morning, going over the airplane. They let the boys get in the airplane and showed them all the controls and the engine.”

“There’s an 11-year-old here that wants to be a pilot,” said Parigi.

The pilots were especially impressed with young Robert Simpson, a member of Troop 62. They were amazed at the knowledge and enthusiasm he had at such a young age.

“I’d like to have him when he gets a little older,” said Parigi. He told Robert he can take flying lessons at any age, but he has to be at least 16 to solo. His advice for the future pilot was to train in the meantime with Microsoft’s Flight Simulator. Parigi said when you get stuck on the flight simulator you can pause it and take time to figure the problem out, but you can’t do that in a plane while in the air.

Young Simpson said, “I’ve always loved fighter aircraft and military, I want to be a pilot and learn. I don’t care if I solo or not, I just want to learn to fly.” Parigi told him right now, he would need to get some pedal extenders and some phone books to sit on and he would probably be okay.

“Mom, pay close attention, it’s only $130 bucks an hour,” said Robert.

Robert’s mom, Franchesca Simpson said, “Ever since we flew when he was 3 years old he has liked planes. We flew to Utah when he was three and it was on after that. He likes any kind of plane that has to do with the military.”

Robert plans to fly for the military in the future or become a commercial pilot. His mom says the TV Robert watches is the Military Channel and the History Channel.

Parigi looks forward to possibly teaching Robert to fly in the future.

“I’ve always thought flying was the way to go,” said Robert. “While you’re alive it’s the closest place to get to heaven.”

Abigail Blowers and Adrian Willingham in the back seat and Faith Blowers in the front seat give thumbs up as they get ready to take their flight with pilot Tom Foreman. RECORD PHOTOS: Penny LeLeux

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.