Flight Program Helps Scouts Earn More Than A Badge

By: Kat Szmit

Topics: Airport , Chatham , Harwich

Flight instructor Buster Waters points out some of the myriad controls on the main panel of a small plane at Chatham Airport to Harwich Pack 76 Scout Declan Freethy-Hurst, who will be working on his air activities badge with his pack with Waters. Kat Szmit Photo

CHATHAM – In the timeless classic “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the main character, Scout, tells her brother during a conversation, “I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks.” Inspired by that motto, the Rev. Buster Keith Waters made his life's mission helping others. Now he's brought his passions to the Cape, specifically to Chatham Airport, where he's passing on his love of flying, and urging local youth to aim high.

Beginning on Nov. 20, Waters kicked off the work he'll be doing with Scouts from Harwich Pack 76 as they earn their air activities badges. Each week, the troop will meet either at the airport or at a meeting place designated COVID-19 safe, to learn the basics of flight, and yes, it will eventually include getting off the ground.

Waters will start with physics.

“Even at this age they can learn the physics behind it and the communication aspects, all the things you've got to know to be a pilot,” he said. “They're working on their badges and will earn flight time. They'll get a feel for the plane, for understanding how the aircraft works, how all the flight services work, and the actual flying of the aircraft.”

But more than that, Waters hopes they'll learn more about their own inner strength and determination.

Waters' journey to Cape Cod began well away from the peninsula in various countries where he did mission work through both his own leadership programs and as a consultant for the Salvation Army. While the work was rewarding, it came with risks, and while working in Costa Rica building orphanages and saving children from human trafficking, Waters was stricken with a bacterial infection that nearly killed him.

“The only people that could save my life were the infectious disease people in Boston,” he said.

Waters had lifesaving surgery immediately upon arriving in the city, but was told he'd need continuous medical attention to keep the infection at bay since doctors were baffled by its origins. He and his wife, Tracy, decided to move to Brewster, which would keep him close enough to the doctors, while still away from the city.

“You've got to bloom where you're planted, so here I am,” Waters said.

Waters, who has degrees in physics, holistic health sciences, sports medicine, and education, and is an experienced outdoorsman specializing in scuba diving, wilderness exploration, sailing, and outdoor adventure, decided to bring his love of flying to local youth after connecting with the folks at Chatham Airport.

“We're trying to keep up with the future demand for people in flight,” Waters said. “I've been teaching kids to fly for over 35 years.”

On Nov. 20, Waters was joined at CQX by retired Southwest Airlines Captain and Chatham High graduate Katie Waters (no relation). While Waters explained to the scouts the basics of the aircraft and what they could expect during their work to earn their badges, Katie filled them in on her experiences as a female pilot in a traditionally male-dominated world.

Katie previously shared her experiences with flying through the Southwest Airlines “Adopt-A-Pilot” program, which allowed her to pass along her passions to numerous future pilots. While the pandemic has put on hold Katie's next move – a foray into a women in aviation realm that enables her to inspire more girls to get into flying – she said she was grateful to meet with the scouts during their visit to the airport.

Waters said with the leaps in technology and the popularity of science-savvy moguls like Elon Musk and the SpaceX program, more young people are showing an interest in flight, which is where Waters comes in. He's hoping to reach out to Ron Draper at Textron Aviation, parent company of Cessna, to see about securing donated planes, and would love to see a seaplane airport established on the Cape.

“People would be able to fly anywhere between here and the Islands,” he said. “Imagine getting in a plane, flying down to the Bahamas and going scuba diving. We've taught over 700 kids to scuba dive. These kids went on to be marine biologists, professors teaching marine biology, resort directors, and those involved with reef protection.”

Waters said the work he does, often with his wife at his side, teaches kids how to be responsible for taking care of not only each other but also the environment. Those involved with his program, including Pack 76, will learn how to pre-flight an airplane, the physics of flight, and getting a feel for instrument reading, interpreting data, altitude, and direction, as well as key communication.

“It teaches you how to pay attention to where you are in relationship to what's around you,” Waters said. “How to keep the airplane in a straight and level flight based on orientation and flight management. You're constantly scanning the sky.”

Waters wants his young charges to learn to trust their instruments to fly the aircraft when they cannot see outside the cockpit, and to form a bond with their co-pilot. The ultimate goal, other than creating more pilots, is empowerment.

“I know it will change their lives for the better,” Waters said. “It puts in them a mindset of responsibility and also teaches them empowerment. They can make a difference. They have the ability to change the world, change their world. When you have a kid that has learned about the empowerment of flying, there's something about that.”