An African proverb states that it takes a
whole village to raise a child. The same holds true when it comes to
getting and keeping today’s youth interested in aviation, and EAA’s
Young Eagles Flight Plan, supported by ConocoPhillips and many other
partners, is a necessary step in making that happen.
“The effort is called a Flight Plan
because it pulls together several different elements and offerings to
create a very straightforward pathway for young people to turn their
interest and passion for flight into reality,” said Elissa Lines, EAA
vice president of donor and business relations. “The pathway for each
young person may be different and the outcomes may be different, but
whatever their final destination is, they can get the tools, meet the
mentors, and participate in programs that will help them achieve their
Whereas Young Eagles has always provided
youth ages 8-17 with a free airplane ride, participating youth can now
find more. For youth under the age of 13, EAA offers online programming
and newsletters, Air Academy opportunities and more. For youth 13 and
older, EAA offers the Next Step program, an effort made possible through
EAA’s partnership with Sporty’s.
Hal Shevers, Sporty’s founder, shares
EAA’s vision to provide the tools to help aspiring young pilots get
the resources needed, Lines said. For youth 13 and older, Sporty’s
provides free access to its Complete Pilot Training Course, which
prepares youth to pass the FAA written private pilot exam.
Youth ages 14-19 who have flown as a
Young Eagle and completed part one of the Sporty’s online course can
then get a free flight lesson, with EAA issuing a voucher of up to $120
for a local flight school.
It’s costly to provide all the elements
of the Young Eagles Flight Plan. Lines estimates between 500 and 1,000
young people will take advantage of the free flight offer each year, at
a cost of $60,000 to $120,000. That’s why EAA is looking for
contributors to donate toward the scholarships.
In addition, EAA will provide a series of
scholarships to use as awards during the year, in hopes of keeping youth
enrolled in Next Step and moving forward in earning a private pilot
certificate, Lines said. Scholarships will also be available to the EAA
Air Academy for those Young Eagles who are 15 or younger who have
completed the Sporty’s program. Flight training scholarships of $1,500
and $7,500, paid for by individual donors and the Gathering of Eagles,
will be available for Young Eagles ages 15-19 who have completed the
Sporty’s program and passed the FAA written test.
The $1,500 scholarships toward flight
training will be given every other month, and the $7,500 scholarship
will be given yearly. Lines said 3,200 young people are currently taking
the ground school.
In addition, scholarships will also be
awarded for youth attending college, technical schools or trade
programs, she said.
Longtime EAA members and supporters, Jim
and Angela Thompson, announced in September 2009 an endowment to EAA to
help fund scholarships in former Young Eagles Chairman Harrison Ford’s
name for young people on the path to becoming a pilot. The endowment
matched contributions from other donors up to $100,000, creating a
scholarship fund of $200,000, Lines said.
Plans are to award $25,000 in Harrison
Ford Scholarships to youth seeking support to attend EAA Air Academy, to
participate in flight training, or to pursue college or technical school
programming, Lines added.
“This fund, along with the other
scholarship funds available, will empower the dreams of many young
people,” Lines said. “It is very exciting to see the full community—individual,
foundation, and corporate—come together to strengthen the future for
our youth and for aviation in general.”
Lines said others are also stepping
forward to help with the initiative, such as Lightspeed Aviation, which
has contributed cash and in-kind support to encourage participation in
the Next Step program and to energize EAA’s chapter volunteer network.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is also providing mentoring for
youth having difficulties in flight school.