I recently had the privilege of flying down to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to visit EAA Chapter 2. (Full disclosure: I was born and raised in Indiana, and after 25 years of living in Wisconsin, I still enjoy flying home for a little “Hoosier hospitality.”) That said, the reason for my flight was to participate in Chapter 2’s Young Eagles rally held at Smith Field (SMD).
I’ve participated in many Young Eagles rallies over the years, some large, some small, some well run, and others, not so much. But they all had one thing in common: I am always impressed and heartened by the genuine spirit and enthusiasm of the EAA member volunteers. That was certainly the case at SMD, as the Chapter 2 rally was very well organized and resulted in more than 100 youths receiving their first airplane ride. Everyone involved enjoyed the day under severe-clear skies. EAA Chapter 2 provides a model of how a larger rally should be run.
Last year proved to be another successful one for the EAA Young Eagles program. We welcomed Sean D. Tucker as our new chairman and exceeded the milestone of flying 1.8 million kids ages 8 to 17. The solid volunteer support we continue to receive reaffirms that the program is vital, viable, and well supported by EAA members.
The EAA Young Eagles Flight Plan experienced solid 8 percent increases in both student memberships and Sporty’s Online Learn to Fly Course enrollments. Sporty’s course completions increased an amazing 47 percent! These increases signify a better understanding of our Flight Plan program by both the volunteers and participants, and deeper levels of engagement in our offerings.
There were some challenges, too. One was a decrease in the total number of Young Eagles flown; just over 72,000 young people received flights in 2013. Some of the reasons for this decrease include adverse weather, the economy, and an aging pilot base that on average flies less frequently than in previous years.
Our goal for 2014 is to fly 75,000 Young Eagles while maintaining the laudable gains in aviation engagement with those who have experienced Young Eagle flights. We need your continued help and dedication to reach the goal and grow participation in aviation. As chapter leaders, we encourage you to continue to conduct Young Eagles rallies and encourage your fellow members to fly Young Eagles. Most volunteers will tell you they enjoy the participation in the program as much or more than the kids do.
So let’s go fly and share our love of aviation with the next generation!