PRESCOTT — Ben Reyes said he first wanted to become a pilot at age 5 when he had a send-off for his mother traveling to Mexico City from Los Angeles International Airport.
“I saw a white PanAm 747 push back from the gate and I saw it take off and just watched that huge airplane get off the ground,” Reyes recalled, reminiscing about the rumbling of the engine.
“Since that day, all I ever talked about was airplanes,” said Reyes, who grew up in East Los Angeles and now lives in Prescott.
Reyes has been a pilot since 1991, earned a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical science in 1997 from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University here and has been a commercial pilot for SkyWest Airlines for eight years based in Phoenix.
Thirty-five years after his experience at LAX, Reyes imparted his enthusiasm for airplanes Saturday by presiding over an introductory flight session for eight Cub Scouts from Prescott’s Pack 1, Den 7.
The Cub Scouts gathered with Reyes and flight instructors at the North-Aire Flight Training Center at the Prescott Airport.
Chief flight instructor Marilyn Schey assigned the Scouts into four groups to meet with the instructors before boarding the four-seater planes similar to the Cessna 172 inside the building.
Flight instructor Cheri Stahlecker held a headset, which the young pilots were to wear to protect their hearing and to listen to call signs. She said the planes would reach heights of 6,000 to 7,000 feet and would be in the air about 30 minutes.
Stahlecker went up in the air with Lucas Kroll, a second-grader at Skyview Elementary School in Prescott, and his father, Marc. They landed around 9:50 a.m.
“I flew over my home,” Lucas exclaimed after disembarking. “I saw my trampoline.”
Stahlecker said, “He helped me take off.”
Referring to the yoke (steering wheel), Lucas said, “I enjoyed moving the thing and turning upside down.”
Stahlecker interjected with a laugh, “We did not go upside down.”
Lucas responded, “We did do bumps,” adding he wants to become a pilot when he grows up.
Lucas and the other Cub Scouts received aviation merit badges, a logbook and a set of pilot wings afterward.
Reyes, who is also a flight examiner for the Federal Aviation Administration, said he wants to make the event routine.
“The Girl Scouts have expressed interest,” he said.