By Debbie Young
Are you one of the many people who have ridden in an airplane piloted by Charlie Walker on the way to a chemotherapy, radiation or surgery appointment? If you are or even if you’re just happy you haven’t needed to, come and help the Port of Lopez recognize the many years of service Charlie has provided to the community. Steve Adams the Chair of the Lopez Island Port Commission said “Charlie has been a true flying angel and we are happy to be able to recognize his service to others.”
Charlie learned to fly in Yakima when he was 14 years old and personally built seven different airplanes during his flying career. He used those airplanes to fly countless people to medical appointments and introduce hundreds of young people to aviation through his flights for the Young Eagles program. He has personally made over 100 cancer treatment flights and flown at least one mother and premature baby to a waiting ambulance in Anacortes. Charlie said, “It usually takes seven minutes to get to Anacortes and I made it in four minutes that morning, both mother and baby survived.”
During Charlie’s 65-year flying career he flew for the US Navy and the commercial aviation industry both in the United States and abroad. He met his wife Verna at Continental Airlines, where she worked in the computer department. She had never been to Lopez Island until they arrived here after their honeymoon in January of 1976. She said she couldn’t believe how dark it was here. Charlie was flying out of Los Angeles at the time and he chose Lopez Island and moved here in 1971 because it was an easy commute by airplane to Seattle and then to LA. When he and Verna moved to the island he brought his wealth of experience to the local community. He served as the Lopez Airport technical advisor and as a technical advisor and inspector for the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) advising and assisting pilots building their own airplanes. He also gave free introductory flights to over 130 children as part of the Young Eagles program.
The award will be given at 3 p.m. on Aug. 19 during the Port’s Airport Day event for the community which starts at noon and continues until 4 p.m. Come to the Lopez Airport early and enjoy some of the other events that will be going on.
Bring your children because local pilots participating in the Young Eagles program will offer free airplane rides to kids 8-17 and the Lopez Island Family Resource Center will host an arts and crafts booth. This booth will be designed to teach kids about the forces of flight. Kids will engineer lightweight airplane wings and test them, or design their own paper airplane.
Bill Johnson and Friends will be providing music and the Port will host free brats for the first 300 attendees. Several Medivac planes will be on display along with antique cars and other fun exhibits. Plan to spend your afternoon at the Lopez Airport on Aug. 19 and join in the celebration.