In this post I want to talk about a free program that few people know about: Young Eagles. This is a program promoted by the Experimental Aircraft Association (“EAA”), and its hundreds of chapters across the country. Did you know that there is a probably an EAA chapter near you that offers free flights in really cool airplanes to kids–okay, okay, they probably also offer free flights for adults, too, but it’s all about the kids, right?
Anyhow, some chapters hold several events a year, some only one or two, but there are there are almost 1,000 active local EAA and divisional Chapters and Squadrons all over the world so, chances are, you live by one. You may not even realize it. I mean, why would you be interested in general aviation unless you are a pilot?! However, general aviation is about more than just having an expensive hobby. It is important to keep it alive at the grass roots level and you should expose your kids to a Young Eagles flight and general aviation immediately for many reasons:
1) It’s really cool. Cooler than cars and trains. And it is totally accessible.
2) It can help foster an interest in science and technology. Aviation incorporates many scientific principals like lift and drag and deals routinely with meteorological influences, engineering design, and gravitational force. Do you want your kids to be engineers? Take them to a Young Eagles Rally and before you know it, they’ll start building rockets and start talking about Newton’s first, second, and third laws.*
3) You can’t be an astronaut unless you are first a pilot. There are also many other careers that an interest in general aviation can lead to: meteorologist, rocket scientist, engineer, A & P mechanic, as well as careers in avionics, government at all levels, and the private sector.
4) Young Eagles flights are FREE!
NOTE: getting a pilot’s license is not free. It can be the opposite of free. However, if you start young, there are many programs available through the EAA that can help defray the cost and get a kid pretty far.
5) It can take up a nice chunk of your day if you have nothing better to do with the little rugrats. Many Young Eagles events offer other amenities like flight simulators, pancake breakfasts, tours of the airport, and if you’re my local chapter, cows, a pond and a walking trail. By default, airports are usually large tracts of land. They can be fascinating to explore.
Are you ready to take them? Your child can particiapte in a Young Eagles flight if they are between the ages of 8 and 17. They will go in whatever plane the volunteers for that day are flying, which can be anything from a Cessna to a Stearman. The flights generally last between 15 and 20 minutes. Kids will receive an official Young Eagles logbook, signed by the pilot. And there is nothing that says that your kid can’t go on multiple Young Eagles flights.
Now, this does require a leap of faith….you are, after all, sticking your child on a small plane with a probable stranger. And the name, Experimental Aircraft Association, doesn’t help.** There is nothing experimental about it. The program has a phenomenal safety record, the pilots are trained, and the events are well-coordinated. And, c’mon, it’s free. The pilots and volunteers donate their time and their planes and their gas because they believe that keeping an interest in general aviation alive is important. Plus, it will be the coolest thing your kid will do all year.
Read more about the program here: http://www.youngeagles.org/flightplan/flight.asp. Find your local chapters at either of the two links above. Then call the Young Eagles Coordinator to ask about upcoming progamming.
And if you keep thinking, why should my kid have all the fun, then go here: http://www.eaa.org/eagleflights/
*results not guaranteed
**Emphasis added for Irony