A Budding Journalist’s Report on EAA Air Academy’s Early Days

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.

Most attendees of the EAA Air Academy are not there for work. Ben Sclair, EAA 571969, was not like most attendees of the EAA Air Academy.

Ben grew up surrounded by aviation on all sides. He had flown plenty before attending the EAA Air Academy, ever since his first flight at 2 weeks old. Flight was just part of life for Ben, whose family was (and is) in the aviation journalism business.

“I had lived aviation already for over a decade at that point [of attending the Air Academy],” Ben said. “So it wasn’t really a spark that I needed to fan, it was just, ‘Hey here’s a great opportunity.’”

The Sclair family owned what was known as the Western Flyer at the time Ben attended the Air Academy in 1985. When they first purchased that publication, it was known as the Northwest Flyer. It’s best known as its current title, General Aviation News.

Still, even if this special trip to Oshkosh wouldn’t introduce Ben to aviation for the first time, the culture of Air Academy proved beneficial for him.

“It was nice to be around other people that had an interest that were my age,” he said. “Because most of my friends, while they would come and hang out at the house, they weren’t into aviation. So it was nice to have people with that common interest.”

In a unique wrinkle, Ben covered the Air Academy for a Western Flyer article he wrote upon returning home. In the August 1985 piece, “EAA Air Academy was good training,” Ben explained the general format of the academy and wrote about his experiences in the article.

“Those two weeks in July which I spent going through this academy was the best time I’ve ever had,” Ben wrote. “If you have a teenager, or you are one who is interested in aviation, I would highly recommend the Academy. It doesn’t matter whether you have your pilot’s license already or don’t know one thing about aviation, you’ll be sure to learn something. I sure did.”

Ben went on to attend the University of North Dakota with the original goal of becoming an airline pilot. Upon graduating in 1993, he instead ended up at the family business, eventually taking over as publisher in 1999.

Ben flying today.

Ben said aviation and publishing have been his life for so long that he was glad to take some time during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017 to enjoy the event, instead of working throughout it.

“I went to Oshkosh last year, for the first time not for the entire week, and with the goal of not working,” Ben said. “I of course worked — I met with some clients and wrote a few stories, took some photos. My goal was to just walk around and look at airplanes, look at exhibits, watch the airshow, and be an attendee. When you’re working, you enjoy it because it’s what your passion is, but it’s different.”

Ben expressed genuine excitement when he said he was thrilled about the growth he’s seen in the EAA Air Academy since he attended as a teenager.

“The evolution is just — like so many things that EAA’s touched and the generous donors and countless volunteers have gotten involved with — it’s blossomed into just a truly remarkable program,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun to have seen it and been involved with one of the first steps of it.”

If you or someone you know has an Air Academy story to share, e-mail us at twindisch@eaa.org.

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