Kingdom Pilots Association (KPA) President Brian Rhoades has been flying for only a few years, but his interest in aviation dates back to his childhood.
My story in aviation is my neighbor had an airplane - a little Cessna - and I can still remember to this day my brother and I went flying up when I was 5 years old," Rhoades said. "I saw our house and everything else from the air, I can remember that day as clearly as yesterday."
That's an interest he and his fellow pilots hope to inspire in Callaway County youth next Saturday, when the 24th annual Fly-In Pancake Breakfast returns to Elton Hensley Memorial Airport. From 7-11 a.m., families can come to the airport for pancakes and an up-close look at planes.
Tickets are $6 for adults and $3 for children 10 and younger, with proceeds benefiting the KPA's Sam Robertson Memorial youth pilots scholarship.
Rhoades said the chance to get up close to a number of planes and earn a scholarship that will pay for lessons up to solo flying is an opportunity to attract youth of all ages to the world of aviation.
"It's really how we introduce young adults (to aviation) with the scholarship who would never consider aviation as a career," Rhoades said. "It is possible to have a career in aviation and we want to introduce them to that path. Really it's a great deal, the scholarship provides flying lessons... to pay for all their flight time up to solo time, which adds up to quite a bit, especially with aviation gas costing as much as it does."
The breakfast is also an opportunity for the Missouri pilots community to get together at Elton Hensley. KPA sends initiations to pilots and airports across the state to fly in, get together and take young people up for a birds-eye view of Fulton.
"The aviation community is a very small community, but they like to get out and meet new people who have the same interests as they do," he said.
Nick Prinster, Fulton's interim airport manager, agreed that the breakfast and the scholarship were important to keep the aviation community alive.
"There just don't seem to be enough pilots nowadays," Prinster said.
Rhoades said that when he began taking flying lessons under former Airport Manager Travis St. John, he learned that aviation, though a challenging and expensive hobby, was one that was open to everyone. It's a lesson he wants the pancake breakfast to impart to Fulton's youth.
"It's a great chance to get up close and look at airplanes, and kids can experience aviation for the first time at a local airport," Rhoades said. "I looked at the airport like it was off-limits like most people do, and it's not - I realized it is open to public and the people at the airport want the community to come out there and be part of it. I didn't realize that until my mid-30s, and we don't want that to happen to other young people."