In celebration of the 35th anniversary of the EAA Air Academy in 2018, we’re featuring Air Academy graduates whose stories inspire and exemplify the impact of the program.
Kyle Voltz, EAA 880499, cannot remember a time when he did not love airplanes. His parents built a Quad City Challenger II together before getting married — Kyle jokes that since they pulled that off, they could handle a marriage — and he had his first airplane ride at 1 year old.
“My love of aviation, I have to say, started with my dad being a pilot,” Kyle said. “For as long as I can remember, it’s been airplanes.”
He knew he wanted be an active member of the aviation community, but until he got involved with EAA Chapter 75 and attended the EAA Air Academy, Kyle didn’t know how.
His chapter brought him up for the whole week of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2008 — Kyle’s first trip to Oshkosh — and it proved to be a formative week for the 18-year-old.
“What hit me right away was there was a bunch of other kids my age that were just as nerdy about airplanes as I was,” he said. “I’m pretty sure most of the kids [back] at school thought, ‘Oh, Kyle will never be a pilot, that’s just a dream.’ But I was committed to it back then. It was neat to be around people who were like-minded. That was the immediate thing that struck me.”
In addition to discovering that there were other young people as crazy about airplanes as he was, and is, Kyle also began learning about how to become a pilot in Oshkosh, and he took his first-ever flight lesson during his Air Academy stay.
Kyle had already graduated high school when he attended the Academy, but after his initial hopes of joining the Air Force did not work out, he found himself with ambition and passion, but no plan. Some of those helpful folks from Chapter 75 suggested he might go to school for aviation, so he did, attending the University of Dubuque after a couple of years spent at a local community college.
Kyle also learned to fly through his college, and while preparing to graduate with a degree in aviation management with a minor in flight, Kyle again found himself needing a plan to continue his aviation journey. And, again, things happened to work out just right.
“I was going to school, and I didn’t have anything lined up, and it was February or March of my senior year of college,” Kyle said. “I graduated in May. It popped up that there was job openings at EAA. By now I attended my chapter meetings, I had been to the Air Academy. I’d bought into this EAA thing, hook, line, and sinker.”
Kyle earned an internship in EAA’s membership department, before ultimately moving to the chapters department and becoming a chapter field representative. He figured working to help chapters such as the one that made his aviation career possible just made sense.
“The reason I moved to chapters is because that’s where my EAA journey started,” Kyle said. “My chapter gave me Young Eagles flights, they sent me to the Air Academy. I’m not telling a tall tale when I say that likely never would have happened if my chapter hadn’t sent me. … It changed my life so much that when chapters opened up, I was like, ‘I would like to make a difference for the chapters because they made a difference for me.’ I believe in what they do, and I want to see them succeed, and I want to be a part of that.”
If you or someone you know has an Air Academy story to share, e-mail Ti Windisch at firstname.lastname@example.org.