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Students take to the skies

Sixth-grader Alison Smith looks out the window of the airplane trying to spot her house from the sky. Later in the flight Smith got to fly the plane by herself. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

High above Lake St. Croix, pilot Bill Irving tells Solon Springs sixth-grader Allison Smith to take the controls of the airplane. Talk about your non-classroom learning.

"It was kind of scary at first, but once I got used to it, it was cool," Smith said of her first small plane flying experience.

Smith, along with 33 other students from Solon Springs, got the chance to fly as part of the Young Eagles program sponsored by Experimental Aircraft Association 272.

"We just want to introduce the kids to the world of general aviation at a young age," said Young Eagles coordinator Ellen Oaks. "It's hands-on learning."

The EAA 272 not only gives rides to students, but they also give out scholarships to students that might want to work in the aviation field.

But it is not as easy as just showing up and flying into the wild blue yonder. According to sixth-grade teacher Nate Ahlberg, his students studied a History of Flight unit and speakers from the Air Force Association came to his class to speak about aviation.

This is the first year the sixth-graders to joined Lynn Lesneski's eighth grade class on the flights.

Both groups took tours of the Solon Springs airport, got to look at an airplane built by Solon Springs students in the 1980s and even got to look into the DNR fire fighting plane stationed in Solon Springs to assist in with any wildfires.

"My favorite part was to see the school and lakes and my house," said Smith about her flying experience. When asked to give out advice to next year's flight goers, she had some advice. "Be prepared to get queasy, but you'll still have fun."

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