Larry Morlock is a pilot in the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 729's Young Eagles program, pictured in the hangar that stores his Beechcraft Bonanza airplane at the Columbus Municipal Airport, Tuesday, May 17, 2016. Morlock has flown more than 700 youngsters through the skies over Columbus in his Beechcraft Bonanza as part of the program.
A local pilot gives wings to dreams of aviation for youngsters and teens.
Larry Morlock has flown 702 people in the local Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 729’s Young Eagles Flights program since 1998. The next-closest member has taken 355 passengers.
Morlock and several other chapter pilots will offer more free, 20-minute plane rides, weather permitting, to those ages 8 to 17 Saturday at Columbus Municipal Airport.
The 78-year-old Columbus resident and Young Eagles coordinator is as much a part of the program that took off nationally in 1992 as anyone around. He and other local pilots take their own time, plane and fuel to fly sometimes more than 100 young people on a summer Saturday morning.
These pilots have escorted more than 3,000 local young people into the wild blue yonder. Morlock’s plane is a 1950 single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza.
“This is a great opportunity to give kids a fun experience they won’t likely get anywhere else,” he said. “The flight is meant just as an introduction to flying.”
A southern Indiana neighbor pilot who would regularly take off and land in his farm’s pasture introduced a then-9-year-old Morlock to flying in 1946.
“I loved it,” he said of his first flight. “For me, just the basic idea of leaving the ground was a fantasy. Really, you’re leaving everything else behind.”
The retired Cummins Inc. director of engineering specifications began flying in 1971 at age 34, earning his pilot’s license in 1975. He has owned several planes, but he considers his current four-seat aircraft to be the best.
His Young Eagles seem to like it — especially when he maneuvers it over a passenger’s subdivision so he or she can see their house from the air. He also often points out landmarks such as the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds, Ceraland Park and Otter Creek Golf Course, exuding enthusiasm and exuberance for a lifelong love.
Brad Stinebring, the local EAA chapter president, sees his pilot friend as more than a volunteer.
“Not only is he a hero to EAA Chapter 729, but to the Columbus community as well,” Stinebring said. “We’d be lost without all the people like him who step forward, and also are so willing to open their wallet (to cover expenses).”
Morlock hopes to someday soon have his yet-to-be-flown, 1920s-style, partially-built Pietenpol Air Camper, parked next to his Beechcraft in an airport hangar, in the skies. He faces no deadline. In retirement, he can take his time.
Away from the cockpit, he loves to steer his passion to his Model A car that he keeps in a garage in Azalia.
It seemed fitting that, as he spoke of all this, he wore his Experimental Aircraft Association shirt. And it seemed equally fitting that a notation reading “700+ missions” was inscribed in a key place.
Nearly right over his heart.
What: The Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 729’s free, 20-minute airplane rides, weather permitting, for young people ages 8 to 17.
When: 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. Parental permission is required on a registration form.
Where: Columbus Municipal Airport, 4770 Ray Boll Blvd.
Why: To introduce young people to aviation.
Other dates this summer: June 11 (Aviation Day), July 17, and Aug. 20.
Information: The airport at 812-376-2519 or visit 729.eaachapter.org.
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