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Young Eagle Builds Airport Observation Deck
By Gary Brossett, EAA 375866
April 14, 2016 - “Airport bums” used to be able to sit on a bench outside the FBO at Columbus Airport and watch airplanes come and go. Increased security since 9/11 changed all that. However, thanks to the efforts of 15-year-old Jerad Lewark, EAA 1055573, of Midland, Georgia, aviation fans now have a place to sit with an excellent view of the runway that also keeps TSA folks happy. As his Eagle Scout project, Jerad – with the help of many supporters – built an observation deck anyone is welcome to enjoy.
Jerad, the youngest regular member of EAA Chapter 677, has been an aviation buff since he was very young, and took his first Young Eagles flight in 2011. In 2012, he earned the chapter’s first scholarship to the Air Academy in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Since then, he has been a regular volunteer at EAA 677’s monthly Young Eagles rallies, introducing many friends to general aviation by bringing them to the events.
Also an active Boy Scout, Jerad has earned every rank possible so far. The final rank, Eagle Scout, requires a Scout to complete a public service project, and that’s where his love of Young Eagles and scouting came together.
“I wanted to build the observation deck so the children at the Young Eagle rallies would have a safe place to watch the planes,” Jerad explained. “The Young Eagles program has given me so much and this was a great way for me to give back.”
Jerald Lewark, Jerad’s father, explained how many hurdles had to be overcome. “Not only did he have to come up with the idea and develop plans, to start the project Jerad had to get permission from the Columbus Airport Director, the Airport Commission, the FBO manager at Flightways Columbus, the FAA, and the Boy Scout Eagle Board.”
Once he had permission, Jerad served as a promoter and project manager, soliciting volunteers and donations from throughout the community. “It was a lot of work,” Lewark explained. “Before the first board was cut or a nail could be driven, Jerad had to ask for donations, work with a contractor to get a building permit, and work with the local utilities to be sure it was safe to dig holes for the supporting pillars.”
More than 37 donors and 30 volunteers generated $4,500 in donations and 325 hours of labor to bring Jerad’s plans to reality. “Everybody was so supportive,” Lewark said. “The airport and 84 Lumber went above and beyond to be sure we had everything we needed, from the wood and fasteners to water and a place to get out of the sun. Several members of EAA 677 also worked on the deck or made donations.”
“I am glad it is finished and excited about it being used next month during the Thunder in the Valley Air Show,” Jerad said when asked how he felt now that the project is complete. “I am thankful to everyone who has helped make this project possible.”
What’s next for Jerad? He won’t be sitting on the deck much. There’s more to do to complete his Eagle Scout requirements, he will stay busy maintaining his high GPA in his engineering magnet program at high school, participating in JROTC, and he’s earned a second full scholarship from EAA 677, this time to the Advanced Air Academy in Oshkosh this summer.
With his energy and drive and love for aviation, it’s obvious things are looking up for Jerad’s future.