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Giving Back: Aviation Awareness Day opens skies with free rides for St. John children

RESERVE — Children ages 5 to 18 can see math and technology lessons learned in school fly to life as they embark on a general aviation aircraft during the third annual Aviation Awareness Day.

Free flights with professional pilots launch from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Port of South Louisiana Regional Executive Airport in Reserve, providing a family oriented outlet with an exhilarating and educational spin.

The event kicks off at 9 a.m. with a prayer and introduction by the St. John the Baptist Parish Pastor’s Coalition.

Paul Green, president of the aviation-based Guys Achieving Goals nonprofit, said this year’s Aviation Awareness Day includes increased participation from female pilots.

“It can have a huge impact on the young ladies to see the female pilots,” Green said. “This year, we are expecting more airplanes. We’re up to 62 sponsors. Every year, we get more and more people to enjoy and support what we’re doing.”

Green, who works as a maintenance technician for FedEx, started the event to expose children to the vast opportunities within aviation.

“This is my hometown,” Green said. “I felt like I had so much knowledge and experience in this field, and I didn’t feel like I was doing a any justice to my community to share this wonderful career with them. There’s possibly more kids out here who want to be in aviation but just don’t know how to do it.”

Paul Green speaks at Aviation Awareness Day. (Peter Forrest Photography)

More than 20 pilots have committed to fly Saturday to accommodate the growing event.

Retired Captain Gordon Bryan worked with Green at FedEx for many years, and he said it has been a pleasure to sponsor the event for the past three years.

Bryan hopes children will interact with adults and mentors and see a shared quality of success, whether they work as pilots or within maintenance.

“They can learn, like Paul did, how to maintain an airplane and live a comfortable life,” Bryan said, adding technical instincts are an asset in almost any career path.

“Once you learn to work with your hands, you’re always working unless you don’t want to be,” Bryan said.

Pastor Donald August of Rising Star Baptist Church in LaPlace said Aviation Awareness Day motivates children to do well in school by providing a tangible, real world application.

“You have something you tout as fun, and when you think about the dynamics of it and what it takes to fly, a lot of that technology comes from math that we learn in school,” August said.

August said the event encourages young people to stay on track while working toward their dreams.

“To become an airplane captain takes a lot of discipline, a lot of preparation and it also takes a lot of structure,” August said. “When they understand all of that is necessary, they realize one simple, foolish mistake can be devastating.”

Green is happy to talk to families who want more information on opportunities within aviation.

His teenage son, Tristan Green, is on the same path and will serve as a mentor this year after completing his first solo flight in 2018.

Families can also enter on-site raffles for two iPads and three e-tablets. This year, adults are invited to take advantage of free medical screenings while their children take flight.

For more information, contact Green at 504-723-4169.

Floyd Miles Jr., Mike Youngblood, Cleon Walker Sr., Palmer Sullins Jr., Quintin Wilson, Curtis Smith, Jim Sakelakos, Cedric Grimes and Barry White have been part of the team making the flights possible. (Peter Forrest Photography)