How the Young Eagles Changed Our Lives

By Brian and Kelly McClure, EAA 1061635 and 1273933

As children, our parents introduced us to the world of aviation. We visited science centers, air and space museums, and air shows. Our dad, a huge aviation buff, built and launched model rockets with us. While we enjoyed these activities, nothing compared to our experience flying with the Young Eagles! At 13 and 10 years of age, our scout leaders organized a Young Eagles event with EAA Chapter 64 and we flew out of St. Louis Downtown Airport. For both of us, it was this experience that spurred our passion for flight and led us both to pursue aviation as a career.

Brian McClure

The Young Eagles event ignited my passion for flight. After this flight, my Boy Scout leader, Captain Dave Andre, invited me to fly with him in his Cessna a couple times when he realized my excitement about flying. The Young Eagles experience along with Mr. Andre’s support truly impacted my desire to become a pilot.

While I was in high school, the aviation industry was fairly stagnant, so I began college at an engineering school where I also played college volleyball. While I enjoyed some classes, made good grades, and loved playing collegiate volleyball, I had to accept during my second year that engineering just wasn’t my passion. I wanted to fly! I returned home to pursue my first dream of becoming a pilot and began the aviation degree program at Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC) in Belleville, Illinois, the following fall. In May 2020, I earned my private pilot certificate and also graduated from SWIC. I have just a few hours of cross country left and next I will pursue the commercial and then my multiengine rating. I hope to initially fly for a small regional carrier to earn hours and experience.

Since May 2020, I have been enrolled at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and I am on track to finish a Bachelor of Science degree in aviation management by December 2021.

My goal is to fly professionally as a cargo or commercial pilot and spend a career in the aviation industry. I have no doubt, absolutely none, that this is the career for me. I love being in the air and I am so grateful to the Young Eagles program that introduced me at 13 years old to the world of flight. Prior to COVID-19, I had a chance to volunteer at a Young Eagles event by escorting kids to airplanes and sharing my aviation passion with them. The event reminded me of my Young Eagles flight and also how that experience truly changed my life.

Kelly McClure

When I was just 10 years old, my mom, who was also my Girl Scout leader, arranged for our troop to get Young Eagles flights. I thought the flight was the most amazing thing I had ever done. As soon as the flight was over, I thought, “I can’t wait to do that again.” And so, I did. My first Young Eagles flight spurred my interest in aviation and by the second, I was hooked. I spent the next several years investigating facets of aviation. While in high school, I explored other career options, but kept returning to the feeling and exhilaration I felt sitting next to the captain in the little Cessna during my Young Eagles flight. Every other career paled in comparison to this experience. Discovery flights and visits to college aviation programs further helped me define my desire to pursue a college major in aviation.

In August 2019, I began the Bachelor of Science program in Aviation at Quincy University (QU) in Quincy, Illinois. I also began flight lessons with QU’s flight partner. Although I was on course to complete my private pilot certificate, in May 2020, when COVID-19 hit, the college and flight school closed and I returned home to finish the semester remotely. Determined to keep my skills fresh, I resumed lessons through St. Louis Downtown Airport and in August 2020, became a private pilot. I am currently working on my instrument rating at Quincy Regional Airport and continuing my education at QU. I’ve added a minor in general business. I plan to continue working on certifications, including a CFI, and plan to work as a CFI while finishing an MBA at Quincy by spring 2024. In addition to school and flight at QU, I am also the starting goalkeeper for the Quincy U. women’s lacrosse team. After college, I hope to fly as a corporate or commercial pilot although I may consider something on the business side of aviation.

I am very appreciative of the Young Eagles pilots who so generously gave their time to introduce me to the world of flight. It was truly this experience that first opened my eyes to the possibility of becoming a pilot.

Brian and Kelly

The aviation industry has almost endless possibilities and we can’t wait to see where the profession takes us. We truly believe the sky is the limit for both of us, thanks to the generous spirit of the Young Eagles pilots and EAA Chapter 64 who introduced us to the world of flight.

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