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Summer reading takes flight

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PILOT: Lutheran Air flight nurse Alicia Wallen shows Easton Cantrell, 6, the inside of her helicopter Wednesday at the Wabash Municipal Airport.
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FLIGHT: Lutheran Air flight nurse Alicia Wallen shows Ruby Cantrell, 4, the inside of her helicopter Wednesday at Wabash Municipal Airport.
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LIFT OFF: Lutheran Air flight nurse Alicia Wallen shows Ansen Bellamy, 4, the inside of her helicopter Wednesday at Wabash Municipal Airport.

by Rob Burgess - rburgess@wabashplaindealer.com

Children who signed up for the Wabash Carnegie Public Library’s summer reading program were in for a high-flying experience Wednesday morning at the Wabash Municipal Airport.

Students and their families had the opportunity to see inside a local pilot’s airplane, watch demonstrations of remote control aircraft and even sit inside a Lutheran Health Network helicopter.

Youth services assistant Julie Lengel said this was the first of the library’s summer reading program special events scheduled at 10 a.m. each Wednesday through July 17. She said the theme for this year was a “universe of stories.”

Future events will take place at the library, and will feature a presentation about rockets, celebrity readers, a magic show, and a yoga session.

Lengel said those who had not signed up for the program yet could do so now at the library. Participants would be eligible for prizes after they receive a tag with a chain, and a bead to add to it for every 20 minutes they read.

While Lengel spoke, Lutheran Air flight nurse Alicia Wallen showed one child after another the inside of her helicopter.

“You’re my flight crew for today, so you’re going to discuss with each other how you’re going to take care of the patient,” she told Ruby Cantrell, 4. “So, you’re going to say, ‘Do they need a Band-Aid, or do they not need a Band-Aid?’”

Wallen then pointed.

“We also talk on our radio over there,” she said. “We talk about what kind of treatment they need, what we’ve done, how they responded.”

Wallen then told Easton Cantrell, 6, it took them about half the time it would take a car to drive same distance to fly there.

“We take as small as an itty bitty baby to as old as the oldest person you can think of,” she said.

Across the field at the runway, members of the Converse Flying Eagles were dazzling spectators with their remote control airplanes.

Secretary and safety officer Stan Spencer said he has flown these devices since 1965. He held a battery-operated foam airplane while he explained how it worked.

“They replicate real airplanes with all the control surfaces,” he said. “We have a transmitter that we have that has the yokes on it basically that will control the aircraft. And then the rest is done by practice and by vision. You’ve got to be able to see it well, and try not to fly it too far out of sight.”

A rubber band held the wings on the machine, which made it ideal for pilots who were just starting out.

“This is a beginner airplane, so it’s that flexibility to possibly have the wing pop off if you do something wrong,” he said. “Plus, the fact that these are all foam and very light and you can get parts very easily for them.”

Club president George Ferris said he had been piloting these devices since 1978. In contrast to Spencer, his craft was a full-built kit powered by glow fuel, which is mostly comprised of methanol alcohol.

“That’s basically balsa wood and a little bit of plywood,” he said. “That comes in a small box of sticks and little planks of wood and you build it up.”