Tuesday, Mar. 12 2013 6:05PM
‘Over the top’
By Toriano Porter
Austen Plain had done what he termed ‘Fly Days’ numerous times before, but after talking with a teacher friend decided he would resurrect the volunteer flight aimed at bringing smile to school-age children’s faces.
Using Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport as his base, Plain – co-owner of the Lee’s Summit-based Austen-Dooley Company with Kelly Dooley Creek – introduced March 8 ‘Fly Days’ to a group of kindergarten students from Santa Fe Elementary School in the Hickman Mills School District.
Plain, along with members of the Kansas City Flight Formation Team and personnel from both the Lee’s Summit fire and police departments, donated time, energy and effort and helped offset the cost to rent the hangar and fly the planes so the visiting youngsters could take it all in.
A friend of Plain’s who commandeers a helicopter and a balloon artist were also on hand, as the children spent time changing stations to get a glimpse of the inside of airplanes, fire engines and police cruisers.
“Whenever I lived in Texas (years ago), I was in aviation school down there,” Plain said. “I good friend of mine was an elementary school teacher and we got to talking and she told me a lot of her kids had never been to the airport or flown in an airplane before. So, I actually started doing this years ago. The kids would have these ‘Fly Days’ we would call it and they would show up to the airport.
“Well, I moved here to Kansas City about 15 years ago and my friend, who is a teacher in the Hickman Mills School District, and I got to talking and I told her I use to do this – I didn’t realize it was going to be these many kids. I’ve been asking a lot of the kids how many of them have flown and actually about five percent of the group had flown in a plane before. A lot of them had never actually sat in a plane before. So, this is just really exciting for them to come out and be able to get into an airplane.”
Connie Brennan, a kindergarten teacher at Santa Fe and Plain’s friend, praised his volunteer efforts as ‘genuine.’
“(Plain) is amazing,” said Brennan, who was part of a contingent from Santa Fe that included four separate kindergarten classes. “He is so genuine. This is exactly what these students need. For them to see this is so wonderful. Everything (Plain) has done has been over the top. We are so excited and thankful.”
Plain was also joined by his dog, Theo, a Golden Retriever the students got a kick out off as well. The highlight of the day was the smoke-filled flyover by three members of the KC Formation Team, a group that fly over such destinations as Arrowhead Stadium during Kansas City Chiefs’ games.
“These pilots donate their plane and they donate their time – just a great, great group of guys,” Plain said of the formation team members. “Most of them are based right out here at this airport in Lee’s Summit.”
In the end, the children seemed to enjoy the day’s festivities. They returned to Santa Fe with plenty to talk about, or as kindergarten student Mohamad Abdelghany put it: “I liked the airplanes and the balloons and the dog. I’m going to tell my mom and dad that I saw three airplanes.”
Added Plain: “I love children. I’ve loved children my whole life. I grew up all through college volunteering helping kids. This is one of my better days.”