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Connections - Kyle Voltz Joins EAA Chapter Team
July 2015 - If you have flown a youngster at an EAA Young Eagles rally and later wondered if your efforts ever made an impact, consider Kyle Voltz’ story. Kyle is EAA’s new chapter administrator.
Kyle is EAA’s new chapter administrator here in Oshkosh. The second of three siblings, he grew up on a farm outside of tiny Geneseo, Illinois. His father, Doug Voltz, held down a full-time job at John Deere Experimental Works while Kyle’s mom, Sue, took care of the house, the kids, and worked around the farm. The Voltz family were proud American farmers; they cared for 100 acres in corn and beans. Later they grew Christmas trees and pumpkins for the fall harvest.
Doug learned to fly early, and while dating his future wife, Sue, they built a Quad City Challenger II together from a kit. It was the “hometown” airplane, and everybody had one in those parts. Doug cut a 1,200-foot grass strip out of a corner of the farm for their Challenger and off they went. To this day, Kyle remembers his first flight in that Challenger with his dad. He was 3.
But there was an earlier flight that Doug recalls, when Kyle was but a year and a half old. He took Kyle to the local airport for a ride in a four-seat Piper Cherokee 140. As aircraft circulated around the pattern, Kyle bounced around like an overinflated basketball, pointing upward and yelling, “Airplane, airplane!” He strapped Kyle into the right seat and launched. As Doug climbed out and leveled off, he looked over to see a very quiet Kyle, mouth wide open, fast asleep.
In the ensuing years Kyle’s fascination with airplanes grew. He and Grandpa Les built and flew model gliders, watching them soar high in the breeze of a summer afternoon. One such summer Doug moved the family Challenger to a hangar at the local airport for safekeeping. Late one night, a thunderstorm ripped through that little aerodrome, plucking Doug’s hangar building from its foundation and tossing it across the runway like a paper plate. The next morning Doug came out to survey the damage and found his and Sue’s Challenger lying on its back. The family collected what was left of the Challenger and brought it back to the farm, storing the remains in the barn. An 8-year-old boy sat for many an hour in the cockpit of that broken fuselage, working the controls, flipping switches, playing pilot.
One day, Papa Doug casually mentioned Kyle’s passion for airplanes to a workmate at Deere. Mike Nightingale was a member of EAA Chapter 75 (Quad Cities). As it so often happens, Chapter 75 had a Young Eagles fly-in scheduled, and Kyle took his first of five Young Eagles flights starting at the ripe old age of 10. (Way to work the system, Kyle!) He flew in a wide variety of airplanes through the Young Eagles program at Chapter 75 including Cessna 172s, a Van’s RV-6, and even a Robinson R22 helicopter. Even though Kyle was around aviators two generations removed, they accepted him as one of their own.
By the time he was 15, Kyle decided to leave the Boy Scouts and join the aviation-oriented Civil Air Patrol (CAP). He immediately joined a squadron and found this group offered a wide variety aviation-related technical training that was meaningful to teens and rewarded hard work. Farm kids understand all about hard work. By the time he was 16, he had completed courses such as Search and Rescue Techniques, and Flightline Marshalling.
Kyle was promoted to the cadet officer rank as a first lieutenant. He subsequently earned the General Billy Mitchell Award, the highest honor the Civil Air Patrol bestows upon a cadet, for demonstrating outstanding achievement in leadership, aerospace knowledge, character, and fitness.
By 18, Kyle faced the “whatcha gonna do…whatcha gonna be?” dilemma that so many teens dread, and he struggled as well. He wanted to fly, but flying lessons were financially out of the question. Later that summer, Chapter 75 was able to sponsor him to attend an EAA Air Academy, and Kyle was immersed in an intense 10-day aviation program that helped him see a future in aviation. It was his first trip to Oshkosh.
Kyle started basic courses at a community college and also took some aviation-related courses that would transfer to into an aviation management degree from the University of Iowa at Dubuque. He saw firsthand all the students who were enrolled in the university’s Professional Pilot training program, but for Kyle the cost was too steep and the career prospects too nebulous.
He did think that having a pilot’s certificate would be a good career move. If only he could persuade his very reluctant parents to cosign for a student loan. Kyle put together a comprehensive plan and presented it to them…and they signed on the dotted line, a confidence booster if there ever was one! Kyle made good on his promise and soloed in November of 2010 and became a pilot. In May of 2011 he took his checkride and passed.
The next step for Kyle was earning a position with the University of Dubuque Flight Team, representing his college at the Nationals. After graduating with his degree in aviation management in 2012, he started looking around for work and applied with the EAA. They responded with an internship and later a job offer in museum services. He wrangled some flying time with a CFI named Jeff Skiles and in 2013 added a tailwheel endorsement to his credentials.
In order to gain valuable hands-on technical experience, Kyle volunteered to help work on the One Week Wonder and also volunteered for two years on the Zenith 750 STOL staff build project. He was then selected to be one of the test pilots and logged 15 flight-test hours on the One Week Wonder and later logged 26 flight-test hours on the 750 STOL and signed off the Phase 1 requirements.
Kyle Voltz is an important member of our EAA chapter office and a valued member of our EAA family. EAA Chapter 75 took him in early on and even though he did not think he “fit” into their group at the time, they included him. Even today Kyle wears his Chapter 75 pin as a tribute to those who mentored him.
Kyle got to hang out at an airport with real pilots, and they changed his life.
Thanks for reading,
P.S.: Kyle wants you all to keep a lookout for a Quickie Q200 project for him!