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Air Academy Celebrates 35 Years

Air Academy alumni credit staff, friendships for 35 years of success

By Ti Windisch, EAA Staff Writer

July 21, 2018 - The EAA Air Academy is celebrating its 35th anniversary during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018, as the longest-running aviation resident education camp in the country adds another several dozen students to its list of distinguished alumni.

Sarah Borg, EAA 1146700, attended the Air Academy in 1996 and said she first believed she could be a pilot because of her time there. She believes EAA Air Academy Camp Director Scott Cameron, and everyone who works to make the academy possible, deserves a lot of credit for their efforts.

“It’s probably not said enough how much the alumni of the Air Academy appreciate the volunteers and staff of the Air Academy,” Sarah said. “For years, Scott Cameron has put his life into it, along with the other staffers. It’s been valuable and life-changing and meaningful to everyone that gets to return back to AirVenture every year, and all the alumni that meet up in the campground. That experience was really important, and the staff created the atmosphere of the Air Academy.”

For many Air Academy graduates, the relationships built with those did not end when they finished their stay in Oshkosh. Lifelong friendships are formed at the academy, and as Sarah mentioned, many graduates of the program camp together at AirVenture every year. This year’s 35th anniversary celebrations include presentations and lunch for alumni and staff, which is planned for Tuesday during AirVenture at the Air Academy Lodge.

It all comes back to Paul, who so astutely pointed out that while the airplanes bring people together, the relationships formed with others are what keep people coming back. The Air Academy is hugely important in its role sparking lifelong involvement with aviation, but its role in building lifelong friendships is still the best part for Scott.

“It’s just fun to see the excitement, but also the tears at the end of the program when the kids leave,” he said. “It’s not tears of sadness or anything, but because they’ve made such quality friendships with colleagues, fellow campers, and we did hit a heartstring with them. To me, that’s what’s important. But we’re also carrying out EAA’s mission in expanding aviation for young people.”

The first EAA Air Academy was in 1984, but the genesis of the idea for the Air Academy happened a year earlier. In 1983, former EAA Education Director Chuck Larsen had a conversation with former EAA Museum Director Ralph Bufano to explore how they could reach more young people.

While walking through the EAA Aviation Museum, the two men decided an overnight camp where children can be near aircraft would be a great way to do just that. The very next year, their idea materialized as the first-ever Air Academy, a massive success by almost any measure.

Today the Air Academy is broken into multiple sessions, based on the campers’ ages. The Young Eagles camp is for 12- and 13-year-olds, the Basic Camp is for those age 14 and 15, and the Advanced Camp allows 16-, 17-, and 18-year-olds.

Anyone in Oshkosh during AirVenture looking to learn more about the history of the Air Academy can visit a new EAA Aviation Museum exhibit dedicated to the 35th anniversary, located in the Gorman Art Gallery, where the Young Eagles exhibit was formerly on display.

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