Freedom of Flight: Kindness Benefits Our Youth


There is a feeling of magic when a plane sets flight; a feeling that everything has been left behind as the plane ascends into the sky.  This was the feeling I had this past Sunday when a friend and I flew in a Cessna Skyhawk SP with pilot Dennis Glaser from Troy Air Experience (TAE).  Originally, this week’s post to be a review of that experience but, as it turns out, it’s now a paper on how kindness is benefiting youth around the world.

Kindness Begets Kindness

I have to start with Jace Johansson, my 17 year old neighbor.  Earlier this summer, he and his friends cleaned my gutters.  When finished, they headed down my driveway on their way home.

“Wait,” I called, “I haven’t paid you yet.”

Jace returned stating, “We didn’t expect to be paid.”

Stunned by the generosity of a teenager, I paid him and his friends more than I had intended.

Fast forwarding, when I booked the flight, I asked if I might bring a friend in return for writing a review.  Working with Elco, TAE’s representative, was effortless.  He readily agreed.  I decided to bring Jace.

“I’ve been interested in flying for a long time.  Every time I see an airplane I really stop and look.  I never really had an opportunity to become involved with flying,” explained Jace as he accepted my invitation.


Arriving at the Oakland/Troy Airport, Dennis met us in the chic terminal.  Before running to the ladies room, I gave Jace the money to pay Dennis.  When I came back, Jace handed me some bills, which I shoved in my wallet without checking as Dennis had not only opened up congenial and animated dialogue with Jace and I.  My hasty assumption was that I had given Jace too much money and that the money he handed me represented my change.

Dennis drove us out to the hangar where he began the requisite safety inspection.  The entire time he involved Jace in the process, patiently explaining in detail the nature of each element of the safety check, inviting Jace to be hands-on.  Jace was completed immersed in the experience; his facial expressions vacillating between abject concentration and that shy grin belonging only to teenage boys.  It was a joy watching them talk as they traversed the aircraft together insuring we would enjoy a safe flight.

“He was really hands-on with me, he explained the different uses of the equipment and let me run-through most of the start-up checks, including checking the fuel and oil levels,” recounted Jace


          We finally boarded the immaculate aircraft; myself in front and Jace in the back.  Jace’s view was not obstructed as the plane’s cockpit was constructed largely of glass.

          As the Cessna is used for teaching purposes, there was a set of dual controls on the passenger side of the plane.  As I was taking in the sleek aircraft, anticipating the flight, Dennis was sincere in engaging me in completing final on-board safety checks.   He explained how the pedals, steering, controls, radio and electronic navigation system operated.  Under his kind tutelage, I released the brakes, primed then turned on the engine, and then manually handled the throttle from takeoff until we safely achieved cruising altitude.

As we taxied down the runway, lift-off was barely discernible.  So surprised, I said something inane like, “Oh my, we’re already airborne.”

Metro Detroit is Beautiful

The view was that of a sunny blue sky dappled by puffs of clouds.  We were cruising at 120 MPH, with an altitude of 2,500 feet, and visibility exceeding five miles.  For the next hour, Dennis gave us an eagle’s view of the Metropolitan Detroit area.  Dennis was not only knowledgeable but generous in sharing with us information about local landmarks and cityscapes, such as downtown Birmingham and the Selfridge Air Force Base.

                    Dennis even took the time to determine where we lived, then he made several passes over our neighborhood giving us ample time to snap some photos.  It was wistful seeing the elementary school three of my children attending many years ago.  On a happier note, apparently, Jace’s family had been watching and upon spotting the plane, they stood waving, even though we could not see them!

          “It was amazing how much we can see.  The diversity of Michigan is amazing especially when seen from that high-up,” commented Jace.

What I most noticed was the how ‘green’ the well-populated Metro Detroit area is; with expanses of park lands and its subdivisions, new and old alike, having extensive green areas, many having preserved established forests.  From the air, the number of lakes and waterways, in all their varied shades of blue and green, were breathtaking.  It said that when you are in Michigan, you are never more than 12 miles away from a lake.  Now I saw that this was, in fact, true.  This ‘bird’s eye view’ was radically different than what I had seen over and over again from commercial airliners.

 Youth Around the World:  A Similar Experience Awaits

During the flight, I learned more about Dennis and his passion for both aviation and for our youth, including information about a program to expose youth from around the world to aviation:

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) launched the Young Eagles program in 1992 to give interested young people an opportunity to go flying in a general aviation airplane. These flights are offered free of charge. More than 1.3 million Young Eagles from more than 90 countries have been flown by 40,000 volunteer pilots. See the EAA Young Eagle website:

After the flight, as an incentive to keep the spark kindled, each young person receives a certificate, logbook, and the opportunity for a free follow-up private pilot ground school course.

“I come from a big family and I believe that many of my nieces, nephews and cousins will be interested in coming with me to go flying with the Young Eagles,” reflected Jace.

Not only does this program offer youth, regardless of financial wherewithal, a flight opportunity but, over the years, its pilots have seen the fruits of their efforts as many of the youth themselves become pilots, in and out of the military, or go to have careers in engineering related-fields.

Dennis is one of the pilots locally volunteering in this program every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  In the metro Detroit area, the local EAA chapter,, is based at the Ray Community Airport located in Macomb County, on Indian Trail Road, between 27 and 28 Mile Roads.

Dennis’ ability to teach in a manner that is gentle yet effective is reflected in his extensive aviation background.  You see, in 1982, Dennis published a flight instruction book titled “The Invitation to Fly” and, in his 45 years as a pilot, he has been involved in training future pilots of all ages and from all backgrounds.

Back on Terra Firma

Approaching the airport to land, I had a bit of trepidation as to whether the landing would be as smooth as takeoff.  But the truth is that Dennis landed the Cessna with such precision that it felt as if we were driving in a luxury sedan with state-of-the-art shock absorbers.

After we left, I commented to Jace that I thought the money I had given him to pay Dennis was precise.  Jace told me that Dennis had returned all of my money.  I was amazed.  Kindness does indeed beget kindness.

The reality is that Dennis took us a wonderful adventure because he had a story to tell.  Dennis’ volunteer work every single weekend with local youth merits the time invested in this post.

For information on taking an exploratory flight with Dennis, contact Elco at Troy Air Experience, LLC, Oakland/Troy Airport, 2820 Maple Rd, Suite 124, Troy, Michigan 48084, by calling 248-225-4553 or by visiting  I would only add that my family members also took an exploratory flight several years ago and had an equally positive experience.

About the Author

Cynthia M. Lardner holds a journalism degree, she is a licensed attorney and trained as a clinical therapist.  Her philosophy is to collectively influence conscious global thinking understanding that everything and everyone is subject to change given the right circumstances;   Standard Theory or Theory of Everything.

Ms. Lardner has accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and LinkedIn, as well as accounts under the pseudonym of Deveroux Cleary, and is globally ranked in the top 1% of all account holders.  She is available for professional consultation.

Her dream is to fly in an AC10 Thunderbolt.


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