As a tyke I remember converting a refrigerator box into a jet plane. I’d cut out holes for the cockpit windows and draw in all sorts of mysterious dials and buttons. Dreaming. In my teens on my first summer job at (then) Toronto International Airport I would spend lunch breaks gazing over the vast airfield from atop the terminal 1 parking garage. Again, dreaming.
Surely, the younger me wasn’t the only such kid with these dreams. I’m quite sure many of you have had similar ones. Some of us might have been lucky enough to know a pilot but in most cases, like mine, dreaming is as good as it gets.
In 1992 the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) launched the Young Eagles program. Its mandate was to give kids aged 8-17 the chance of a lifetime – the chance to experience the thrill of aviation first hand in a GA aircraft. And since then a whopping 1.3 million kids worldwide have experienced that thrill in over 90 countries thanks to the generosity of nearly 40,000 volunteer pilots. In Canada, more than 100,000 Young Eagles have been flown by Canadian pilots participating through COPA’s partnership with the EAA.
For many Young Eagles their short flight in that little plane fulfilled a dream. For many others it started a new one. Some former Young Eagles are even working in aviation today. At the very least (as is the case with one of my first Young Eagles), that short flight might have been just enough to show a youngster that anything is possible. That trying a little harder is always worth it. That taking the easy way isn’t necessarily the most rewarding way. That you can live your dream!
As if we needed more reasons to fly
We all know that feeling of joy we get when we see the look of wonderment on the faces of our young passengers as the plane first lifts off from the ground. “Wow!” we hear over the intercom. We take a few minutes to explain the basics of attitudes and movements then begin to demonstrate how those movements change the indications on our instruments. “So that’s what all these things are for!” Some time later (and never long enough) we’re back in the circuit. A little while after that we’re back at the ramp. We disembark our newest Young Eagle whose smile stretches from ear to ear. “Thanks a lot! That was amazing!” This newest entrant in the EAA’s “World’s Largest Logbook” sure has an adventure to share with their friends, and share it they will – you can count on it.
A thrill for the kids? Absolutely. But what about for us? It’s hard to describe the warm sense of pride. Being the one to have provided that thrill. And in such an uncommon and unique way. It feels like flying should feel. It feels like being a kid again. It just feels… right.
We all benefit
By holding and promoting Young Eagles events we can give something to the neighbours of our airports. Since the flights are free of charge Young Eagles events are a great way to draw nearby families to the airport. In many cases this will be their first visit to their local GA airport. In addition to sharing the excitement of flight we now have the opportunity to introduce them to the great people of our GA community, offer facility tours, and demonstrate just how important and valuable GA airports are to our cities.
The size of a Young Eagles event – the number of kids that can be flown – is really only limited by the number of volunteer pilots and planes available. Owners can register with the EAA and make themselves and their planes available for some or all of the event. Non-owners can use rental aircraft for their Young Eagles flights.
International Young Eagles Day - Saturday June 9th, 2007
Several events will be held on International Young Eagles Day this June 9th. In the Greater Toronto Area, independent but cooperative events are being held at three sites: In the west end, at the Brampton Flying Club (CNC3), in the east end at the Oshawa Airport (CYOO), and to the north at Buttonville Airport (CYKZ). These event are being co-promoted by Hope Air to help raise awareness of the other kinds of good work routinely performed by GA pilots.
Hope Air is a registered charity dedicated to providing free flights for Canadians who need to travel outside their home communities for medical treatment. Founded in 1986, Hope Air has since provided more than 52,000 free flights for Canadians.
COPA endorses and supports the Young Eagles program and encourages COPA members to participate individually or through the many COPA Flights or dedicated Young Eagles events across the country. Contact your local GA airport to see if they’re holding an event and how you can help. Volunteers are always needed for administration, ground support, ramp escorts, etc. Corporate sponsorship and a show of support from municipal, provincial, and federal government leaders are welcomed and encouraged. For more information visit the EAA’s Young Eagles website at www.youngeagles.org