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East San Jose community takes to the skies, rallying behind Reid-Hillview Airport

SAN JOSE — Taking off in a roar from Reid-Hillview Airport in East San Jose, Paul Marshall’s Beechcraft Bonanza A36 airplane navigated around Mission Peak’s summit east of Fremont Saturday morning.

But the pilot who has flown since 1998 handed off control of the six-seater, single-engine aircraft to his co-pilot: 10-year-old Julian Aviles.

“Planes aren’t quite like cars,” Marshall said to Aviles, stretching out his arms to demonstrate how the plane moves before take-off. “Keep looking at the yolk — that’s how we go up and down, you see that? Hey Julian, that’s going to be your job.”

Brothers Armando and Ernesto Tapia joined Julian, climbing into the airplane in their Nike sneakers and baseball cleats, which they lace up on the Eastridge Little League field next door to the airport.

More than 200 kids took to the skies during Saturday’s Young Eagles Flight Rally, a monthly affair put on by the local Experimental Aircraft Association chapter and volunteer pilots across Silicon Valley. The program has provided more than 2,500 free flights to children since its first year in 1992.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 18: Jonathan Hernandez,10, of San Jose, Ernesto Tapia,11, of San Jose, Armando Tapia,11, of San Jose, and Jose Luis Rosales,10, of San Jose, watch planes take off during Young Eagles Flight Rally at Reid-Hillview Airport in San Jose, Calif., on Saturday, June 18, 2022. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group) 

“I’ve flown 300 Young Eagles in my lifetime,” Marshall said after landing back at Reid-Hillview. “I think it’s one of the greatest programs in the world. The kids get up into the air; they get to fly for free. Julian was a natural flying the plane; he could be an airline pilot — you never know.”

But beyond putting smiles on children’s faces after landing back on solid ground, Saturday’s event was intended to bring attention to — and hopefully reverse — Santa Clara County’s anticipated closure of Reid-Hillview by 2031. The county Board of Supervisors voted in 2018 to stop accepting federal grant funding to help maintain operations at the airport.

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