PEOPLE Disabled spread their wings Free plane rides give kids, adults a rare look at area

Marc S. Posner
North County News

Orange County Register
18 Oct 1992: b06.

Gregory Kissel straps himself into the back seat of a Beechcraft Bonanza and flashes an excited smile — just one of many seen on this day. As the left engine on the twin prop roars to life, he wraps his arm around Walker Horton and smiles again.

Slowly, the six-seat plane taxis to the runway, following a line of others. Pilot Richard Nesbit guns the engines, goes through the final checks and gets an OK from the tower. In the blink of an eye, the plane is hurtling down Fullerton Municipal Airport’s runway.

The craft stretches skyward and soon Kissel, 21, and Horton, 27, are looking down at Knott’s Berry Farm.

Both have Down’s syndrome and are taking part in Eagle Flight 8, a program that gives free plane rides to physically and developmentally disabled children and adults.

The event, in its eighth non-consecutive year, is the realization of a dream of Beverly Guido-Deutsch. She and her husband, Paul Deutsch, founded the event in 1981 with rides for six children.

On Saturday, more than 50 pilots took about 650 participants and 50 chaperones on a flight path over Knott’s, Disneyland, Anaheim Stadium and Cal State Fullerton. Everyone involved in the event donated their time; the planes, fuel and insurance also were donated.

Participants didn’t seem to mind a two-hour delay forced by poor visibility. Instead, they enjoyed a free carnival, food, live bands, face-painting, a clown who twisted balloons into different shapes, and visits from police and fire department officials, including Jessie, Fullerton’s popular fire dog.

By 11 a.m. the weather had cleared and the flights got under way.

Air traffic was 40 percent heavier than usual, said Joy Johnson, acting tower manager. No more than 10 Eagle Flight planes were allowed to be airborne at any given time, she said. They were monitored closely by the tower and Guido-Deutsch, who coordinated their departure schedules.

Despite the increase in air traffic, there was only one complaint from neighboring residents about noise. “And it was about the band,” said Roland Elder, the airport’s director. This is the second-largest event, behind the semiannual Airport Day, hosted by the airport.

More than 150 volunteers, including Fullerton’s Police, Fire and Community Services departments, the Civil Air Patrol, Marines, Beckman Instruments and Women’s Club, Fullerton Radio Club and Fullerton Sunrise Rotary, helped run the event.


BLACK & WHITE PHOTO; Caption: Gregory Kissel looks out the window of a Beechcraft Bonanza at the city of Anaheim during his flight Saturday. The 21-year-old was among the 650 physically and developmentally disabled people who were given the opportunity to take a free plane ride as part of the Eagle Flight 8 program.; Credit: M. Loren Hernandez:North County News

Copyright Orange County Register Oct 18, 1992