Free Flyin' (with photos)

By Perry Russom

June 9, 2013 Updated Jun 10, 2013 at 11:29 AM EDT

Town of Union, NY (WBNG Binghamton) For Alexis Reilly's 10th birthday, her grandmother took her for a free plane ride at the Tri-Cities Airport.

"I don't know anything about (planes)", said Reilly.

She was one of dozens of children who were given free flights to learn about aviation.

"The overall population of pilots in the country is dwindling," said Richard Graumann, co-president of the Tri-Cities Pilots Association. "There's an effort among aviation organizations to go and encourage both young people and adults to become interested in aviation careers."

The flights are one way Tri-Cities pilots are trying to make flying more accessible and remove the barrier between the airport and the community.

"I remember growing up and dad was flying in from working out of town, the family would go up to the gate and you'd meet him getting off of the plane," said pilot Eric Miller. "Of course that doesn't happen anymore."

Miller was one of the pilots giving the free 15-minute flights.

"Flying is a great influence on the young folk," Miller said. "It involves good math and science skills so it's a very academic pursuit."

During Alexis' flight, she was given the wheel to see how physics apply to the plane.

"When you pulled the wheel back, the plane would go up and when you pushed it in the plane would start to go down," Alexis said.

After flying, Alexis said she's going to read more about planes and how they work -- a plan Tri-Cities pilots hope many more children will follow.

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