By Randy Epstein, EAA 833410
In 2015, EAA Chapter 690 in Lawrenceville, Georgia, introduced a program for young folks age 14 and up. The hope was to provide a way for youth with a deep interest in aviation to get flight training. The program started with a single project, an ultralight Pietenpol that our youth began by constructing wing ribs. After some time, we were able to add additional projects including a BD-6, provided by the Bede Family Foundation, a full-size Pietenpol, donated by a chapter member, a Continental A-65 rebuild which was another donation to the chapter, and assorted RC modeling projects.
At our first meeting, we had a half-dozen youth present and we grew from there. In the five-plus years since then, we have had 100 youth come through our program, getting an opportunity to learn about aircraft construction, proper tool usage, safety, and leadership. Each member has an opportunity to earn credits that can later be used for flight training. The chapter has a relationship with a flying club on the field. The club, AeroVentures, provides a C-150 for our youth and has even provided pro bono instruction to these youth. To date, the program has produced six private pilots. We have also had two Ray Scholars thanks to EAA, and our second recently soloed.
Of the original six youth, three are now private pilots, with one of those now serving in the U.S. Navy as a helicopter pilot. His first logged time was in an EAA Ford Tri-Motor. A fourth is our second Ray Scholar. EAA Chapter 690 is proud to have been able to help these young folks achieve a dream of theirs.
Chapter 690 has been active in the Young Eagles program since its inception, having flown thousands of young folks along the way. Of our newly minted private pilots, three of them are now paying it forward by flying Young Eagles themselves. Our first is Jeremy Welch, EAA 1205372. Jeremy earned his private certificate on his 17th birthday and has gone on to earn his instrument rating and has now flown 38 Young Eagles. Next was Alex Kirkland, EAA 1226848. I had the privilege of taking Alex on his first Young Eagles flight in 2014. Alex earned his private certificate in October of 2018 and has now flown 88 Young Eagles. Our third original youth member is Alex Straka, EAA 1141642. Alex started with our program, took a break and returned last year. Alex began his training last July and earned his private certificate on January 9 of this year. He has done this while being a college student and a part of the AFROTC at Georgia Tech. A week after earning his certificate, Alex flew seven Young Eagles at our monthly rally and has now flown a total of 10.
It is wonderful to see these young folks grow and continue to participate in chapter events. Alex has now become a mentor for our youth program. It is a pleasure to be involved with this program, see it grow, and watch these young folks grow.