August 23, 2018 - Four young women accomplished their solos this week as part of EAA’s three-week Sport Pilot Academy, which is held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, after waiting out intermittent days of poor weather. The women — Patria Liz De Leon, 18; Brianna Ringen, 19; Amelie Schlager, 17; and Elisa Younger, 21, are all attending the academy on full-ride scholarships from EAA.
“It was amazing,” said Amelie, EAA 1257758. “I went … just before dark so I saw the sunset and it was beautiful. Everyone always talks about soloing, and it’s true what they say: It’s exhilarating. A little scary, but exhilarating.”
Amelie took her Young Eagles flight and become a member of EAA Chapter 124 when she was 16, after volunteering at her local air museum in Sonoma County, California, and learning about EAA. She said she hopes to earn her private certificate by the end of the calendar year after she returns home.
The Sport Pilot Academy is an immersive aviation experience, with students typically flying four hours a day, in addition to ground school and flight briefing and debriefing. It also offers unique opportunities such as flights in a Bell 47 helicopter and a 1927 Swallow biplane, and the chance to make lifelong aviation friendships.
“It’s a lot of work, and you have to put in your best effort,” said Elisa, EAA 1162342. “Sometimes you have to study when you don’t want to, but overall it’s a really fun experience. You learn more about yourself through this. It’s not just about the flying. It’s learning through experience and getting to know awesome people and getting to do something super awesome that not many people get to do.”
Elisa’s goals once she returns home include giving a special flight to a family member.
“My grandpa always wanted one of his grandkids to fly, and this gave me the opportunity to do that, so now I hope I can take him up sometime,” she said.
Patria, EAA 1276445, who became interested in aviation after joining the Civil Air Patrol in 2015, hopes to continue her flight training at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Patria had soloed once before attending EAA’s Sport Pilot Academy.
“The one I did here was amazing because when I landed back to the airport all of my peers were cheering me on,” she said. “It’s rewarding to do the experience with your friends and the people you get to know.”
Brianna, EAA 1283025, is carrying on family tradition by learning to fly — her grandfathers were in the U.S. Army Air Corps and the U.S. Air Force, and her uncle was a lieutenant colonel in the South Dakota Air National Guard and had also served as support staff for the Thunderbirds.
“[After soloing], it was like, I did that,” she said. “Two weeks ago I knew nothing, and now, two weeks later, here I am flying aircraft by myself. It was a really good feeling.”
Brianna plans to earn her private certificate this winter while on break from college, and said having been able to gain nearly all of the flight experience she needs, with the exception of night flying and a cross-country, has been a huge step forward.
All of the young women attending the 2018 Sport Pilot Academy expressed gratefulness to EAA for providing scholarships for their flight training.
“I’m really grateful because without this opportunity I wouldn’t have flown,” Amelie said. “I’d think piloting [is] awesome, but it’s not for me because I don’t have the resources. It was really amazing to come here and be able to get the hours and go on from here.”