The Sisters Flight Science crew with (left to right) Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines founder), Harrison Ford, Randy Babbit (FAA administrator) and Sean Tucker (airshow pilot).
By John Griffith
Mixing philanthropy with his passion for flying, Bend resident Darren Pleasance sponsored four Sisters High School students to participate in the trip of a lifetime. By way of the Blue Sky Educational Foundation, the students attended the Bob Hoover Tribute February 21- 22 in Hollywood.
The students were put up at the Beverly Hills Hilton, enjoyed a formal reception on the roof of the Hilton, a formal lunch at the Four Seasons the following day, and a formal dinner for 500 at The Gate, a restaurant just inside the gates of Paramount Studios.
The tribute emcee was long-time sport pilot Harrison Ford. Other notables included the last man to walk on the moon, astronaut Gene Cernan; astronaut Jim Lovell, commander of Apollo 13; and Sully Sullenberger, noted for his water landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River off Manhattan.
At the Four Seasons lunch, the Sisters kids were seated with Sullenberger. They also got to spend time with Lovell and Cernan - and they got their picture taken with Harrison Ford, who was seated at the next table.
The students also got to touch the rocks that Cernan brought back from the moon during their tour of the California Science Center, where they also got to view the highly publicized recent installation of the space shuttle Endeavor.
Chaperone and teacher-of-record Jon Renner remarked on how down-to-earth these celebrities were with these high school kids from Central Oregon. Beyond a tribute to Bob Hoover, the primary focus of bringing the four colleges and four high schools from across the country to this event was to promote an interest in flight-related careers for the youngsters.
A group of Purdue seniors and super seniors with majors in aviation and aeronautics were seated with the Sisters contingent. They openly shared their educational and intern experiences with the Sisters kids.
Of course, a trip to Hollywood would not be complete without a little "star gazing." The group got a few hours to tour the "homes of the stars," and they had the chance to do a little window-shopping on Rodeo Drive. They also got to take a picture alongside a $4 million 250-mph Bugatti Veyron that was parked in front of its owner's shop - where locals pay hundreds of thousands of dollars each for their tailor-made suits.
Among private pilots, 92-year-old Bob Hoover is a legend.
Hoover flew 59 combat missions, escaped a German POW camp, stole a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 and flew it to the Netherlands in World War II; he was Chuck Yeager's chosen backup pilot, and flew the chase aircraft when Yeager broke the sound barrier in 1947. Hoover continued to use his flying skills as a test pilot and later as an airshow pilot for North American. He is known to have inspired many a young person to pursue an aviation career.
Organizers cited Hoover's passion for paying it forward, for teaching and inspiring future generations, as the motivation for creating this event, and for the creation of the hall of honor that will carry Hoover's legacy forward.
The Blue Sky Educational Foundation was founded to inspire young people toward careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by providing them opportunities to experience aviation excitement first-hand. The $950 ticket price for this sold-out event will go towards scholarships.
The students attending this event were Julianna Pade, Seth Roy, Logan Strasser and Martha Villagomez.
Sponsor Darren Pleasance is the international acquisitions manager for Google. He lives in Bend and commutes to the Bay Area in his Piper Meridian. The former Alaskan bush pilot has two kids in Central Oregon schools.
The Flight Sciences program at Sisters High School was initiated in the fall term and now boasts 18 budding pilots.
Flight sciences is one of a growing number of volunteer-staffed and privately funded electives on offer at Sisters High School. The health sciences program and fire sciences programs are also largely volunteer staffed and funded, as is the initial program in this format, the "Pursue Your Passion" entrepreneur program which concluded its second year this week.