78.4 F
Thursday, May 23, 2024

Young Eagles fly with pilots at Leesburg International Airport

Twelve young people got a pleasant surprise at the Leesburg International Airport, experiencing flight in both a fixed wing aircraft and a jet powered helicopter. 

This took place Saturday at the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 534 based at the airport. EAA Chapter 534 tries to run a Young Eagle Rally for kids once a month to give them the experience of taking a flight in a small single engine aircraft. These rallies are free, and volunteer EAA pilots provide their time, planes and fuel at no charge. 

Lately, the chapter has had problems with weather that caused cancellations or rescheduling of these events. It looked dubious that this one might have been a washout as well due to a strong cold front bearing down on Central Florida. At 7 a.m. that morning, chapter vice president John Weber took a close look at the weather and concluded they could squeeze it in before the storm hit the area. 

EAA Group
DSCN 7149 Student pilot and Squadron 534 aviation youth member Nick Hopkins demonstrates how to do a preflight to Young Eagles.

It turned out to be a bit cloudy but with a ceiling between four and five thousand feet and little wind. Everything was a go, so 12 prospective Young Eagles, their parents and their friends poured into the EAA hangar to complete the paperwork and be assigned to a chapter pilot and plane. 

EAA Chapter 534 provided six pilots to fly five fixed wing single engine planes and one jet powered helicopter. There were also 15 EAA chapter members available to help with the paperwork and computer, escorting folks back and forth to the ramp and explaining the aircraft projects going on in the hangar. 

Festivities began with a demonstration of how a pilot would do a preflight for their aircraft. Chuck Troutman taxied his newly built Zenith 601 to the front of the hangar for this. Student pilot and Squadron 534 youth group member, Nick Hopkins, went through the procedure and explained what to look for. Each pilot is routinely responsible for doing this on their own planes prior to the Young Eagle Rally.

During 20- to 30-minute flights, the kids learned a lot about what makes an airplane fly and might have gotten a chance to get the feel of the controls under the watchful eye of their EAA pilot. Upon completion of the flight, each one of them received a commemorative certificate and an official logbook signed by their pilot. 

Additional perks included a free EAA Student Membership, free access to Sporty’s Learn to Fly online course and $130 toward an hour of dual instruction at a flight school of their choice, just to name a few. 

These rallies are promoted by the National EAA in Oshkosh, WI, and carried out by local chapters worldwide. They are open to kids aged 8 to 17 with the motivation being for children to experience the thrill and wonder of flight in a small general aviation aircraft. For many of these young people, it is the first time they have ever been in a plane.

EAA Best Friends Loved Flight
DSCN 7171 ( R to L ) Eleven year old Amilie Weaver and her best friend Gracie Abbott really loved their flight.

The hope is that this experience will kindle an interest in aviation so that later they might want to become private pilots or become interested in some other aspect of aerospace. There will be many aviation opportunities like these available for these kids in the future due to pilots all over the world aging out and commercial pilots retiring. 

EAA Chapter 534 also has an active aviation youth program called Squadron 534. When parents and children discover this, the Young Eagles event may become the catalyst for joining up. Here they will work alongside chapter mentors learning how to use tools properly, build and repair experimental aircraft and have access to the chapter’s flight simulators. This is a great way to keep that interest they may have in aviation moving forward. 

To learn more about National EAA, go to www.eaa.org. To find out more about the Young Eagles program, go to www.youngeagles.org. For information about Mid Florida EAA Chapter 534 in Leesburg, go to www.chapter534.org. 

EAA Chapter 534 is a tax free 501C3 organization able to receive cash or in-kind donations of support. 

More articles

Leesburg man sentenced to 30 years in prison after SWAT team raids home

A Leesburg man faces 30 years in prison after being found guilty of trafficking narcotics and possessing a stolen firearm.

Leesburg man captured and wrestled to ground after wife’s plea for help

A Leesburg man was wrestled to the ground by deputies after fleeing a traffic stop and refusing orders following an alleged suicide attempt.

Follow Us