By Ted Luebbers, EAA 875984
The members of EAA Chapter 534 held a Young Eagles rally at the Leesburg International Airport in Leesburg, Florida, on March 18.
Despite the dire forecast of rain and cloudiness the weather guessers had been predicting for some days prior to the event, those predictions held off until much later in the day. This gave Chapter 534 just enough time to run a successful Young Eagles rally. The cloud ceiling was somewhat broken at 6,000 feet with no precipitation. This gave the chapter’s pilots plenty of time and space to give 12 local Lake County youngsters an enjoyable flight.
Chapter members started to gather at the EAA hangar shortly after 8 a.m. They set out tables and chairs for registration, warmed up the computer, and got ready to greet the young people and their parents or guardians.
Around 9 a.m. the parking lot in front of the hangar started to fill up with visitors. Excited kids tumbled out of those cars and led the parents to the registration table to sign all the forms for Young Eagles.
While this was going on, Joel Hargis, the Young Eagles chief pilot, gave a briefing to the five volunteer pilots. He had already talked to the tower personnel and told them about the rally and the airplanes that would be taking part as well and their registration numbers. He told the pilots what they could expect for air traffic, stressed safety, how long to fly, where to fly, and told them to enjoy the experience.
Joel is usually a pilot himself but he was recovering from a recent surgical procedure and wasn’t able to fly. That didn’t keep him away from the event though, and he was there to see that things ran smoothly.
While Joel was talking to the pilots and giving an orientation to the kids and parents about what to expect during the rally and the flight, Young Eagles coordinator Jodie Soule, as well as Gretchen Crecilius and Joyce Catarineau were in the hangar seeing to it that all the paperwork was completed and assigning the young people to pilots and airplanes.
Pilots guided their young crew members and parents to their airplanes sitting out on the ramp and showed them what a preflight was like for each of the aircraft.
Tony Lucchese and Frank McCutcheon were appointed air marshals out on the ramp to help the pilots by directing ground traffic prior to takeoff and after the flights returned. Other Chapter 534 members were available to explain aircraft building and repair projects going on in the hangar and operating the computer for Jodie.
As always, it is the membership that turns out to make a successful Young Eagles rally. The members are just as excited as the young people and their parents to make this a memorable day.
The Young Eagles rally is designed to acquaint young people, ages 8 to 17, about the wonders of flight. This experience is free as EAA pilots volunteer their time, airplane, and fuel to make sure kids have a safe and enjoyable flight that may spark a lifetime interest in aviation. The hope is that as they mature, they will become private pilots themselves, or pursue some other area of aerospace.
For those young people who get to sit in the right seat of the airplane, they will be asked if they would like to fly. If they say yes, they will be shown what to do and actually take the controls and get the feel of flying the airplane. This is all done under the watchful eye of the EAA pilot.
Upon completion of their flights, each Young Eagle will be given a certificate commemorating the flight and an official logbook signed by their pilot. In addition, each Young Eagle will be given a free online Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course, a $279 value, and EAA will reimburse them when they pass the FAA written exam, which is a $175 value.
When they complete the three volumes of the course, they will qualify for a free flight lesson at a flight school of their choice. Each Young Eagle is also granted an EAA student membership at no cost. This was a great day enjoyed by all. It was interesting to see all the smiles on the faces of the young people as they deplaned and listen to the excited discussions they were having with their parents.
If you want more information about EAA Chapter 534, you may go to www.eaachapter534.org.
All photos by Ted Luebbers