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Chairmen in the Air – Sean D. Tucker, Jimmy Graham Give Unforgettable Young Eagles Flights

By Barbara A. Schmitz

July 24, 2019 - Some kids solo on their 16th birthday, but Ryan Loehrke can beat that.

On Monday, he took an airplane ride with one of aerobatics' best.

EAA Young Eagles Co-chairmen Sean D. Tucker and Jimmy Graham gave Young Eagles flights respectively to Ryan, of McLean, Virginia, and Madeline Anderson, 12, of Oshkosh. Sean and Ryan flew in Sean's PA-34 Seneca, while Jimmy and Madeline flew in Sean's Extra.

Sean and Jimmy first did a photo shoot over the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh grounds, and then the two split up and allowed the Young Eagles to take the controls.

"It's pretty exciting to be flying with Sean Tucker," said Ryan. "I've watched him do his aerobatic shows for years, and it's cool to meet him."

Ryan said he got his interest in aviation from his dad who built an ultralight about 20 years ago. They also own a Cub.

His favorite part of the flight, other than going with Sean, was seeing AirVenture from above. "I hadn't had a sky view of Oshkosh before, and that was exciting," he said.

Ryan did take the controls and "messed around a little bit" before they headed back to Wittman Regional Airport to land.

Will it be a birthday he remembers?

"Definitely," he said. "It's been a good one."

While it wasn't Madeline's birthday, it was a day she will never forget.

"Look at her. Her smile, her in the plane, her giggling and having a good time," Jimmy said once they landed. "There is no better feeling for me than this. She told me this is her 11th AirVenture, and I said this was just my second. So when I get to 11, I told her we'll have to do this again."

Before the flight, Madeline said if Jimmy asked if she wanted to take over the controls and actually fly, she would.

And did she fly. "She did better loops than I did," Jimmy said, laughing.

"It was amazing," Madeline said, adding that the big loop was her favorite maneuver. So how was her stomach? "Fine, actually," she said. And yes, she said she wants to be a pilot.

"I remember what it is like to be that young, and I wish I could have gotten in a plane and flown like this," Jimmy said. "Moments like this are priceless."

Sean said it is a blast flying with Jimmy as co-chairmen of Young Eagles. "He is so humble and believes in our mission and the youth of this nation. Flying Young Eagles with Jimmy over the field with the show going … is great energy. It's fun."

It's not only fun. It's also rewarding, Sean said.

"Jimmy did a little skydancing with that girl … and look at how Madeline is smiling and laughing," Sean said. "It's all about paying it back and pushing it forward. It was a good day."

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