Making the Future Ours
By Mary Jones
Mary Jones, director of EAA publications
Recently some friends and I were reminiscing about our childhoods and how different they were from the childhoods of “kids today.” It reminded me of one of my Saturday morning rituals: Saturday was cleaning day. The house was mopped, scrubbed, and dusted in anticipation that someone might stop by on Sunday. That was the day neighbors and relatives - all farmers - went visiting.
As the only girl in the family (then), my outside chores were superseded by indoor cleaning responsibilities, and I developed a system that would always cause me to be dusting in the living room when Sky King was on television. I was hooked on that program, though even at that young age of 8, I realized Penny pulled some silly stunts.
But the adventure of flying also caught my attention. I wonder: Had there been a program like Young Eagles and if I could have been exposed to it, might I have developed an interest in aviation earlier in life?
I can’t know that answer for certain, but I know this: Young Eagles does exist, and now with Sporty’s supporting the Next Step program that allows Young Eagles access to free online training—and with a free student membership now available to those youth courtesy of Embry-Riddle—and flight training scholarships available because of the generosity of a number of philanthropically minded members, there’s an awesome opportunity for kids to pursue flying as a hobby or potential career, even if they don’t think they can afford it. If you’re not familiar with these additions to Young Eagles program, I highly encourage you to visit www.YoungEagles.org to learn more.
You’re going to be hearing a lot about EAA’s mission of growing aviation through participation over the next year or so, but that doesn’t just apply to young people. Ultralights and light aircraft are still the most inexpensive way for someone to realize the dream of flight, and heaven knows the ultralight/lightplane community could use some new blood. Maybe educating more people about the opportunities that light aircraft offer could become a mission of this community.
I’m well aware that there are some training issues that are a roadblock right now - that being the lack of readily available special light-sport aircraft (S-LSA) trainers that provide an experience akin to ultralight flying - and the unending delay in getting the FAA to finalize the letters of deviation authority (LODA) needed to allow training in experimental light-sport aircraft. The former will improve with increased demand (that chicken and egg thing: I sure wish we could convince a few more manufacturers to produce ultralight-like S-LSA); the latter problem, LODA, is still being worked vigorously by EAA’s advocacy team, and just an hour ago in a meeting here at EAA HQ I heard optimism for a resolution sometime “soon.” (Yes, I know you’ve heard that before.) But EAA is not giving up. This is a safety issue, and safety is a top priority of EAA.
I started working at EAA in late December 1983, a month after the infamous 20/20 program that literally saw an ultralight fall from the sky. Many in the community were in despair and were certain the end of ultralighting was at hand. But saner minds prevailed - hmmm, when I think of some of the characters of that day and the machines they flew, maybe I should think of a better word than saner - okay, more reasonable minds prevailed and ultralighting was preserved and allowed to continuing developing.
While things may not be wonderful for ultralights/lightplanes, times have been worse. The increased activity down on the farm during AirVenture 2010 proves to me that people still are finding ways to participate. As you put your planes, trikes, and powered parachutes away for the winter, maybe now is a good time to think about how you or your club might engage more people next year - how you’ll make it easier for those interested to cross that line of discomfort when they don’t even know the right question to ask. Start making plans; it can’t hurt. There are lots of online resources available.
im Hartung of Poor Boy Aviation called just the other day to remind me of his website, www.PoorBoyAviation.com. And there are many more.
Lastly, I hope you’re enjoying the “new” Sport Aviation. We’re continually looking for good articles about ultralights and lightplanes, especially for the feature section of the magazine. We need your help to steer us toward story ideas. We haven’t had enough articles for this community, and we’d like to improve on that. Send your ideas and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!