March 6, 2014 - In August 2006, an 11-year-old Jarin Leake of Keenesburg, Colorado, had his first airplane flight on an American Airlines MD-80 from Denver to Chicago. "That was my first exposure to aviation," he recalled. "Right then and there I knew I wanted to be a pilot."
He held onto that dream through middle and high school until 2012 when Jarin decided to look into aviation scholarship opportunities. He soon came across the EAA Young Eagles
program with its popular EAA Flight Plan
and flight training scholarships. He learned that going on a Young Eagles flight would make him eligible for numerous benefits associated with the EAA Flight Plan, including a free first flight lesson, free access to the online Sporty's Learn to Fly Course to help him pass the FAA written exam, and the ability to apply for flight training scholarships.
Jarin scheduled a Young Eagles Flight with Stephanie Wells, EAA 765661, and a member of Chapter 43 in Loveland, Colorado. On March 17, 2012, they went up in her RV-6 and he not only got to take the controls, but Jarin experienced his first 3g turn. He said that for the first time, he had the feeling, "Hey, I can do this!"
A few months later Jarin had his free first flight lesson at New Frontiers Aviation at Platt Valley Airpark (18V). In June 2012 he went up with instructor Charles Aden, and in the following months took about four more lessons - about all he could swing given his limited financial resources.
In November that year, Jarin applied for a Harrison Ford Flight Training Scholarship, primarily funded by an endowment from Angela and Jim Thompson and named in honor of the famous actor and pilot who served as EAA's Young Eagles chairman from 2004-2009.
Jarin was notified in January 2013 that he was selected to receive a $7,500 Harrison Ford Flight Training Scholarship, which would provide the necessary funds for him to obtain his private pilot certificate. By March he was taking weekly flight lessons with Aden at New Frontiers Aviation, and flew his first solo on May 10, in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk.
Flight training continued through about November when he took some time to cram for the knowledge exam. After passing the oral on January 16, 2014, Jarin went up for his checkride and passed. He was now a private pilot!
Jarin now wants to get transition training in high-performance complex airplanes like a Piper Comanche along with mountain flight training. He also intends to join the Civil Air Patrol and be a search and rescue pilot, but he'd eventually like to be a commercial pilot for a charter or airline. His ultimate goal is to be a commercial astronaut.
Meanwhile he plans to fly Young Eagles himself, hoping to ignite the passion for flight in a would-be pilot and giving back to the program that provided the resources for him to pursue his dream of flight.
"I have to say it's been a true blessing and a wonderful opportunity," he said. "And I wouldn't be where I am today without EAA. I appreciate it tremendously - it means a lot to me and my family."
He figures about 50 people have asked him for a ride and he plans to get to them all eventually. "Rentals are scarce in this area," he said, "and that's the only way I can fly now."