Around 11 a.m. Thursday Air Force F-16s scrambled and intercepted a single-engine plane that had entered a temporary no-Fly zone in the Denver area, where President Obama was delivering a speech. The Cessna 182 had fallen out of radio communication. The F-16s escorted it to Centennial Airport south of Denver, and authorities accepted the pilot’s explanation: he’d made an honest error.
It wasn’t Col. Jack Howell, who was also flying a Cessna into the Denver area–but not until Saturday, by which time Obama was actually in Florida, speaking at campaign events in Kissimmee and in St. Petersburg. On Thursday, Howell, who heads Flagler County’s Teens-in-Flight program, was still getting ready for a flight he’d planned for months as a fund-raiser for the surviving victims of the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting, which left 12 people dead and injured 58.
With Howell is 16-year old Cora Rand, a student pilot from Daytona Beach, who’s been getting a lot of press along the way, and Cora’s flight instructor Kurt Schneider.
The goal was to raise $10,000. As of Thursday, he’d only made it to $4,000. Howell was clearly disappointed by the amount raised locally, considering the attention he was getting along the flight path. The amount doesn;t include what may have been added after considerable exposure in local media: the Cessna took off from Flagler County Airport on Sept. 14 at 7:24 a.m., making it to Memphis, with a stop in the Panhandle, at 1:35 p.m., and to Salina, Kansas, just before 7 p.m. (Flagler time). The team landed at Colorado Springs Municipal Airport at 4:40 p.m. Saturday. It began the flight back early this morning, making it to Salina at 11:15 a.m.
Here’s how the Salina Journal in Kansas described it yesterday: “Cora, Howell and Schneider landed in a Cessna 172 at Salina Municipal Airport about 5:45 p.m. Friday. They planned to spend the night in Salina before completing their flight to Aurora this morning. Greeting the trio was Salina Police Chief Jim Hill. A former Marine himself, Hill fought during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam in 1968, as did Howell, although the two men had never met before Friday. Hill presented Howell with an envelope containing a contribution for Aurora victim assistance from the city of Salina. ‘It’s to show support for Teens-In-Flight and its mission,’ Hill said. ‘We wish them godspeed, and hopefully the funds they deliver will help relieve suffering in Aurora.'”
Television and radio stations have given the trip some air time, too. Jacksonville’s WTEV (Action news Jax) was at the Flagler County Airport the day before take-off, and KAKE, a television station in Salina, greeted the trio Friday, You can see that report below.
The flight is scheduled to make it back to Flagler late today. Live flight tracking is available here.
Howell is still raising money, of course, because he had pledged to give $10,000, even if he had to put in the balance of the money himself. So to defray his costs, donations are still being accepted. You can send in a check or money order to Teens-In-Flight Inc., 23 Felwood Lane, Palm Coast, FL 32137, with memo “For Colorado.” Credit card payments can be made at the group’s website.