Pilots offer free flights before AirVenture Cup - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Pilots offer free flights before AirVenture Cup

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Mt. Vernon (WSIL) -- Dozens of planes are on their way to the Mt. Vernon airport. It's for the 22nd Anniversary of the AirVenture Cup, a cross country race. 

Around 75 pilots will compete in the race that kicks off from Mt. Vernon and ends in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. 

Some of those pilots include friends Keith Phillips, Tuck McAtee and Jim Cianci, who all grew up with the dream to fly. 

"The first day that I flew, I was excited," McAtee says. "This last flight I took, I was excited, and it hasn't changed in-between." 

The three pilots are Vietnam veterans and compete against each other in the AirVenture Race Cup that kicks off in Mt. Vernon this year.

"It's a lot of fun. We get to fly with our friends and see a lot of neat airplanes," Cianci says. 

 Pilots fly 400 nautical miles and land in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. That's where the largest plane show in the world takes place. 

The pilots took News 3 Reporter Brooke Schlyer up for a flight of her own. It was her first experience flying in formation, reaching speeds of 230 milers per hour. 

However, Phillips says they normally go 300 miles per hour. 

"We were holding back on power because we weren't in a hurry," Phillips jokes. "I don't get to fly with a good looking girl everyday." 

Philips pulled 3G force before finally landing. 

The pilots also want to share their love of flying with kids. 

"I think you get it in your blood," Cianci explains. "Once you get off the ground, and see the experience and you feel the exhilaration. It kinda grows on you." 

Cianci, Phillips and McAtee hope these flights will make the younger generation want to carry on the tradition and become pilots themselves. 

"There's such a pilot shortage we need to accelerate training to get them up to where they can fly," McAtee adds. 

Free flights will take place on July 20 from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. for kids aged 8-17 with parental consent. 

The pilots will take off for the race on July 21 at 9:30 a.m. weather permitting. 

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