Oshkosh, Wis. – August 8, 2007 – EAA Young Eagles celebrated its 15th anniversary Wednesday night, July 25, and the highlight had to be the young people who came back as testament that the program is working.
Executive Director Steve Buss said the Young Eagles program began when EAA President Tom Poberezny asked a question in 1991: What do you see as challenges facing the organization? Access to the sky was a key concern, but right below that was how to get young people interested in aviation.
When they asked pilots how they became interested in aviation, the answer how to proceed became clear. “It was always someone gave me an airplane ride,” Buss said.
EAA launched its Young Eagles program at EAA Oshkosh ‘92 with a goal for EAA volunteers to fly 1 million young people ages 8 to 17 by Dec. 17, 2003, the 100th anniversary of powered flight and the 50th anniversary of EAA. It made that milestone and today, more than 1.3 million youths have received free airplane rides from more than 40,000 pilots.
But besides a night to celebrate successes, it was a night filled with giving thanks to the many people who have made the program work.
Buss thanked the pilots – including those who have flown more than 1,000 Young Eagles and those who have flown at least one Young Eagle during each of the program’s 15 years -- field representatives, chapter coordinators, ground volunteers and others who helped start the program and keep it going strong. He also thanked the many businesses whose financial support have helped the program to prosper, including ConocoPhillips, which made a multi-year donation; Epic Aircraft, which provided funding for the first 2,000 student membership kits; SC Johnson, which provided funding for the anniversary party; and others.
He welcomed back Greg Anderson, former vice president of the EAA Aviation Foundation and Ed Lachendro, the program’s first executive director.
Buss also emphasized that none of this would have been possible without EAA Founder Paul Poberezny and his wife, Audrey, who received a standing ovation. Paul “all the wonderful people who helped us along the way.”
Young Eagles has been fortunate to have the leadership of three chairmen — Cliff Robertson, who “lent his name to the EAA program when all it was is a concept;” Gen. Chuck Yeager, who continues to be active in the program and gives flights; and Harrison Ford, who spoke via video and said that he would continue to serve as Young Eagles chairman through 2009.
The annual Young Eagle awards were also presented as part of the program.
As the program drew to a close, a number of former Young Eagles who are now in the aviation industry were introduced, including David Marten and current U.S. Air Force B-1B Instructor Pilot. David related his Young Eagles experience and the support he received from his local EAA Chapter as he pursued his career goals. David also introduced Tom Poberezny and, with assistance from Young Eagle #1 Lesley Poberezny, presented Tom with an award thanking him for his leadership and vision for Young Eagles. The award was presented from the Young Eagle pilots and volunteers and all past, present and future Young Eagles.
Tom Poberezny said EAA needs to continue to get young people interested in aviation, if aviation is to thrive and survive. He also thanked the assembled volunteers for their support of Young Eagles...
He also announced a new goal — to see 1 million active pilots. He doesn’t think it’s an unattainable number thanks to Young Eagles, the new student membership and Sport Pilot. There are currently 600,000 active pilots, down from 830,000
“We just need to give young people a reason to fly. The Young Eagles program has become engrained in our organization’s culture. EAA and you have made an investment.”
And from the number of success stories already, it looks like the investment will continue to pay off.
Samples of Young Eagles Success
When Caitlin Grant’s mother decided to take the kids to the Winchester Regional Airport for a fly-in, she considered it just a way to entertain the family on a Saturday afternoon. But it ended up being much more — it was a turning part in Caitlin’s life.
“I was a freshman in high school and people were pressuring me to pick a direction for my life,” she recalls. “But I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do after school.”
Then she went for a Young Eagles airplane ride with Richard Largent. As she sat in the left front seat of his plane, she knew that aviation was the direction she needed.
Caitlin earned her private pilot’s certificate and went on to graduate from Purdue University in aviation technology — professional flight and earned instrument, commercial and multi-engine ratings. Ten years after that Young Eagles flight, she now works as a FAA controller.
Jason Jarvi grew up coming to AirVenture and always knew he was interested in airplanes. But his first flight in a Piper Warrior in 1994 at age 11 made him certain that one day he would fly.
Today he’s a pilot with Atlantic Southeast Airlines. And he’s already given back to the program that helped him 13 years ago. For three years he worked as a camp counselor and pilot at the EAA Air Academy, giving more than 100 children a Young Eagles ride.
“I’ve always had the itch, but Young Eagles was the reason I pursued aviation.”
Carl Robinson saw an ad in the newspaper promote Young Eagles flights at Chicago’s Meigs Field and thought why not. “I had flown commercially before, but never in a small plane. Once up, I was hooked.”
And he’s been hooked on the program since. He now helps the Chicago DODO Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen with their Young Eagles rallies. And while the kids are waiting to fly, he talks to them about aviation and explains how airplanes fly using posters, models and DVDs.
Currently, Carl takes flight lessons and attends Lewis University, majoring in aviation maintenance. “Without Young Eagles I probably would have become an architect. It kick-started the whole process.”
Young Eagles 15th anniversary event registration in the lobby of the EAA AirVenture Museum.
Young Eagle volunteers and guests enjoy the AirVenture Museum, food refreshments and a silent auction, before the recognition program.
More than 600 people attended the Young Eagles 15th anniversary celebration.
Young Eagles Executive Director Steve Buss welcomed the assembled volunteers and supporters and thanked them for their efforts to reach out to Young Eagles worldwide.
Young Eagles Chairman Emeritus reminisces about his Young Eagles flights through the years. Gen. Yeager continues as an active pilot and flew a number of Make-A--Wish children during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2007.
Young Eagles Program Administrator Michelle Kunes presented a personal thank you to all who have worked with her in supporting the program. Michelle has been with Young Eagles since 1994.
Unable to attend due to filming “Indiana Jones IV”, Young Eagles Chairman Harrison Ford addressed the group via video. Mr. Ford also extended his commitment to Young Eagles through 2009.
Former Young Eagle, now B-1B Instructor Pilot David Marten greets Tom Poberezny. Tom and David are surrounded by other former Young Eagles who are now in the aviation industry.
Tom and Paul Poberezny share their thoughts on the 15th anniversary of the Young Eagles program to close the celebration event.