HAYWARD -- A Fremont 16-year-old took a free airplane ride at the airport's annual open house two years ago and caught the flying bug.
"I became captivated. I felt flying was meant for me, and I wanted to learn all about it," said Andy Teng.
He returned to the airport two weeks later and spoke with Ben Henderson of East Bay Aviators, a pilots group dedicated to introducing young people to aviation. That meeting was the beginning of hours of training and flying, culminating in Teng earning his private pilot's license in January. The 18-year-old has set his sight on becoming a commercial pilot; he now is working on his instrument and commercial ratings.
"By the time he's 21, he'll be ready for a major carrier," Henderson said.
Building on Teng's success, East Bay Aviators want to expand training to a handful of disadvantaged young people, but the group needs more than $40,000 to cover costs, Henderson said. "I've been trying to get some funds where we can help kids and not have to charge," he said.
The city has set up a crowd funding website for the project at www.citizinvestor.com/project/motivation-through-aviation.
"The city manager thought, hey, here is this great program. Let's engage the community around an asset we already have, the airport, and the good work the pilots are doing," said Hayward spokesman Frank Holland.
"If this helps kids develop a marketable skill they're going to enjoy, this would be incredible. At the same time, if this project can encourage kids to develop an interest in math or physics, which are critical in aviation, there's a benefit that's just as important," he said.
It costs $8,000 to $10,000 to get a private pilot's license, Henderson said. And it requires hours of flying time using aviation fuel that costs nearly $6 a gallon.
"It's really expensive; my parents paid about $9,000, and that was a reduced rate," Teng said.
East Bay Aviators is able to keep costs lower than private instructors because Henderson maintains the group's Cessna 150 training plane; he is both a retired airline mechanic and a retired Federal Aviation Authority safety inspector. Bay Area Black Pilots Association members provide ground and flight instruction.
"We keep everything at minimum cost," he said.
The pilots will again be giving free rides to 8- to 17-year-olds at Saturday's Hayward Executive Airport open house. Experimental Aircraft Association Vintage Chapter 29 pilots also will be taking youngsters on free flights. People can pay $450 for flights on a World War II-era B-17 bomber, the Memphis Belle, during the open house; the money goes toward maintaining the aircraft. There also will be restored vintage military airplanes and vehicles, corporate jets, helicopters, classic aircraft and muscle cars at the family-friendly event. Some Tuskegee Airmen -- the famed black pilots of World War II -- are scheduled to attend, Henderson said.
Teng is headed to Baylor University in Texas after he graduates this spring from Washington High, but he plans to continue logging flying hours and working toward his dream of becoming a commercial pilot. "I want to travel the world to different places and meet people," he said.
"It's like a different world when I'm flying a plane," he said.
Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473, or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.
Free flights for children, vintage aircraft displays
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday
Where: 20301 Skywest Drive, Hayward