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Tue, Apr 18, 2023

EAA Chapter 534 Hosts Young Eagle Rally

Investing Wisely in Aviation’s Future

On 15 April 2023, ten Young Eagles enjoyed airplane flights made possible by the generosity and skill of the members of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) Mid-Florida Chapter 534. The flights were conducted from Leesburg, Florida’s Leesburg International Airport (LEE) over the course of a day filled with wonderment and discovery.

In EAA parlance, Young Eagles are children, ages 8 to 17, who are taken aloft in the personal aircraft of EAA members that they may experience the joys and wonders of flight—often for the first time in their young lives. The flights are most often round-robin affairs, departing from and returning to the same local airport. Young Eagles are accompanied by their parents or guardians, who take part in airport tours and pre-and-post-flight procedures and briefings. These discovery flights are offered free of charge by local EAA chapters chartered by the Oshkosh, Wisconsin-based EAA National parent organization.

Worldwide, EAA chapters number in excess of nine-hundred—the majority of which are based in the United States, typically on or near secondary or regional airfields the likes of LEE. In some cases, however, Young Eagle flights have launched from remote grass runways.

The Young Eagle program exists for purpose of inspiring young people to cultivate interests in aviation—perhaps even to aspire to careers in the pilot, air traffic control, or aerospace engineering fields. Neither textbooks, films, video games, nor virtual reality simulations can captivate the young soul, spark the evolving imagination, or stoke the nascent passions for freedom and adventure quite so powerfully and viscerally as the experience of actual flight in a light aircraft.

Young Eagle flights most often span twenty to thirty minutes. In some cases, youngsters are flown over their neighborhoods, homes, or schools. In such instances as an aircraft is equipped with dual-controls, EAA pilots may, at their discretion, offer Young Eagles the opportunity to hand-fly for short periods of time. Young people amenable to taking the controls—which is to say, most of them—are instructed in the rudiments of powered flight by their EAA pilots. There is little a neophyte pilot can do to seriously imperil an aircraft safely at altitude and under the command of a certificated pilot.

A virtual constant of Young Eagle flights is the state of unbridled excitement and giddy triumph in which kids return to the ground—assailing their parents with enthusiastically-told tales of their experiences aloft.

Upon the completion of a flight, Young Eagles receive an official aviator’s logbook and a certificate commemorating the experience—both signed by the pilot under whose auspices they flew. Many children enjoy the experience to such a degree that they become regulars, showing up eagerly every time a local EAA chapter holds a Young Eagle Rally. Such youngsters are often excellent candidates for aviation youth programs—such as EAA Chapter 534’s Squadron 534.

In addition to the aforementioned logbook and certificate, kids who take part in Young Eagle flights receive, free of charge, a Sporty’s [Pilot Shop] online Learn to Fly course and a free flight lesson. Also, they receive free access to over three-hundred science and technology museums and student memberships to the Academy of Model Aeronautics.

Young Eagles who become active in Chapter 534’s aviation youth program are eligible to compete for an annual $11,000 Ray Aviation Scholarship applicable to flight-training at the flight-school of their choice.

To date EAA Chapter 534 has awarded four Ray Scholarships and has been qualified by EAA National to award another such scholarship in 2023.

Over the course of Chapter 534’s most recent Young Eagle rally, three of the group’s pilots volunteered their respective time, fuel, and personal fixed-wing, single-engine airplanes. What’s more, EAA Chapter 534 provided 12 ground volunteers who helped with registration, guiding children and their parents about the airport, and explaining aircraft-construction activities in which chapter members are currently engaged.

Prior to the commencement of Chapter 534’s Young Eagle flights, an airplane was pulled up in front of the organization’s hangar, and Nick Hopkins, one of the chapter’s past Ray Scholarship recipients, demonstrated a properly-executed preflight inspection to the inchoate Young Eagles.

FMI: www.eaachapter534.orgwww.youngeagles.org.

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