Flying Young Eagles, One at a Time

By EAA Chapter 382

EAA Chapter 382 in Huffman Prairie, Ohio, is a fairly small chapter located near the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton. Perhaps due to our close proximity to the birthplace of aviation, we felt inspired to offer a more in-depth experience to our Young Eagles. Our initial EAA Young Eagles program was set up by the late Don Topmiller, who had served many years in aircraft and human factors design. Wayne Moyer, EAA 595240, and his wife, Kay, EAA 1273586, assisted Don and have been running the program for the past 15 years. At the very beginning, our chapter adopted the philosophy that Young Eagles flights should provide everyone with a bit of background on how airplanes fly followed by a ride with each Young Eagle actually sitting at the airplane’s controls.

Young Eagle Clara enjoys her flight by a member of Chapter 382.

A typical Chapter 382 Young Eagles rally starts with a short ground school that explains the EAA Young Eagles program, how airplanes fly, how the flight controls work, what the instruments show, and shares the different scholarship opportunities for Young Eagles participants. The ground school instructor also explains what the Young Eagles can expect when they meet their pilot and go to the airplane. Parents are encouraged to attend the ground school, and, typically, the Young Eagles and parents ask a lot of questions.

After ground school, each individual Young Eagle is matched up with his or her pilot. The Young Eagle, pilot, and parents are then escorted to the airplane by one of our many ground safety crew members. Once at the airplane, the pilot provides a short walk-around preflight to show the basic aircraft parts and reinforce the ground school. The Young Eagles then get strapped into the airplane and briefed on seat belts, safety, and headset operation. We, and usually the parents, photograph each Young Eagle before and after each flight to capture the exciting moments. Our pictures are then posted to our chapter Facebook page so parents can share the experience with family and friends.

We fly both two-seat and four-seat airplanes at our rallies, but we only put one Young Eagle into each airplane. This makes for some longer days and more flights, but we feel the individual attention provides a better experience for each person.

Since our pilots fly a variety of airplanes, we have different routes of flight to separate the faster and slower aircraft. Each route takes about 20 minutes to fly. During the fall months, the routes overfly at least one corn maze, which is always interesting to see from the air.

Once safely at altitude, every Young Eagle is offered the opportunity to take the controls and make gentle turns, climbs, and descents. While many of the Young Eagles are quite eager to actually “fly” the airplane, some initially only want to watch. Some of our pilots employ a ruse by asking the Young Eagle to “shadow” the pilot on the controls to see how the pilot moves them. Then after a few seconds, with the plane well-trimmed, the pilots gently take their hands off the controls and watch the smile as the Young Eagle realizes they are flying the airplane. Often, the more reticent kids become very thrilled and don’t want to stop flying when it comes time for landing. One young boy who originally didn’t want to fly the airplane commented while approaching the downwind, “I think you’d better help me out with the landing!”

We knew at the outset that this one-on-one approach would require a lot of extra effort for the pilots and ground crew, but we felt the benefits to each Young Eagle and his or her family would make the effort worthwhile. The many comments we have received from the Young Eagles and their parents about how excited the kids about the opportunity to fly the plane have confirmed our philosophy.

Wayne Moyer, Chapter 382 Young Eagle Coordinator for 16 years and the gentleman who instilled our philosophy to fly Young Eagles one at a time, passed away on Sunday, April 1, 2018.  His last wish was to ask that “in lieu of flowers” donations be collected to buy Young Eagle pins for the kids.

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