Edmonds ‘Pilots for a Day’ soar over Puget Sound Thursday in vintage DC-3
Two Edmonds residents earned the right to take the controls of a vintage DC-3 Thursday, after being among the 12 lucky winners in the Historic Flight Foundation’s (HFF) first “Pilot for a Day” essay contest.
Trenton Slocum of Edmonds, age 11, was the youngest member of the group. He attends North Shore Christian Academy in Everett, where his favorite subjects are science and math. Trenton is in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program at school, and is looking toward a career in aeronautical engineering. “My grandfather is a retired U.S. Naval aviator, who flew in the Navy version of the DC-3 back in the 1950s,” he said, “and I was really hoping for the chance to do it too.”
Trenton’s grandfather was there to watch his grandson’s maiden flight. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he said.
Kent Treadgold lives in Edmonds and teaches science and video production at Explorer Middle School in Everett. “I’m always looking for ways to bring the outside world into my classroom,” he said. Treadwell shot lots of video both on the ground and in the plane, which he plans to bring back to his students.
“Explorer serves a student population where more than 70 percent receive free or reduced cost lunches,” he said. “Most of my students have never been on a plane.” Treadwell hopes that by bringing back video and sharing his experience he can inspire his students to “look up, not only literally but figuratively.”
After about 45 minutes of “ground school” at the Historic Flight Foundation where the “pilots” learned about the history of the plane, the flight plan for the day and operational procedures at Paine Field, the group left the hanger and walked across the tarmac to the Foundation’s vintage DC-3.
First brought into service in 1935, the DC-3 was a landmark of design and engineering, and set the bar for many years to come. As the first commercial airliner used for coast-to-coast flights, the DC-3 was also pioneering step in commercial aviation. Even with two refueling stops along the way, passengers could travel from New York to Los Angeles in 15 hours. Even today, almost 75 years later, the DC-3 remains in commercial use in other parts of the world.
HFF pilots John Sessions and Gene Vezetti handled takeoff and landing. While in the air, each “pilot for a day” got a hand at the controls. The flight pattern took them north over the San Juan Islands, south to Boeing Field (where they buzzed the tower), and back home via Husky Stadium and the Montlake Cut.
Back on the ground, the pilots feet were still at least 10 feet in the air.
“It was absolutely awesome,” exclaimed the 11-year-old Trenton. “I had about two minutes with my hands on the yoke, and it was just amazing.”
Treadgold actually got his hands on the yoke and his feet on the pedals. “We buzzed Boeing Field at a very low level. I could almost see the ants crawling along the tarmac below, ” he said. “We went through the Montlake Cut very low, and I saw the Huskies running a draw play on the field. I could even read the numbers on the uniforms!”
The essay contest was open to all, and drew more than 400 responses. “Selecting the winners was very tough,” said event organizer Drew Symonds. “The essays were so heartfelt. I wish we could have accommodated everyone.”
But to everyone who missed the chance to be “pilot for a day,” don’t despair. There’s more in store.
This coming weekend the Historic Flight Foundation is hosting the sixth annual Vintage Aircraft Weekend at Paine Field. Running from Friday, Aug. 30 through Sunday, Sept. 1, the event offers vintage aircraft demonstration flights, live music, food, and a chance to win a flight in the same DC-3 flown by the “pilots for a day” winners. More information is available at the Vintage Aircraft Weekend website.
– Story and photos by Larry Vogel