President and CEO of Sporty’s Michael Wolf, EAA Lifetime 460022, recently reached a special milestone, flying his 200th Young Eagle.
Michael’s support for the Young Eagles program dates back to September 1996 when the program was still in its fledgling years. He flew 14 youths on his first day as a Young Eagles pilot as part of EAA Chapter 174’s annual fall rally.
He said his original motivation for flying Young Eagles was simply to do his part in sharing aviation with the next generation, but said it was when he saw the excitement of the Young Eagles he flew that he really became hooked.
“Kids today have so many choices to occupy their time we must put aviation in front of them just to let them know it’s a path,” Michael said. “It’s not only important to our aviation industry, but also aviation is critical to the future and security of our country. Young Eagles provides youth with a valuable introduction to aviation, which has served as a springboard for countless Young Eagles to pursue their aviation dreams.”
Recognizing the value of the Young Eagles program and feeling impassioned to help it grow, in 2009 Sporty’s met with EAA to create a special partnership.
“In 2009 we introduced our Sporty’s flight training course online,” Michael said. “The online format of the course was ideal for wide distribution, so we met with our friends at EAA and offered every Young Eagle free access to our Learn to Fly Course. … And right now we are approaching 50,000 Young Eagles signed up for the course.”
Throughout this entire time, Michael has consistently made room in his schedule to continue flying Young Eagles. As part of the program’s 25th anniversary celebration in 2017, Michael was one of approximately 630 Young Eagles pilots (of more than 40,000 total) to receive the 25 for 25 pin, flying 27 youths in the calendar year.
He said earning the pin proved more difficult than he had thought it would be as weather and aircraft maintenance prevented him from flying as often as he’d hoped. Near the end of the year, he had flown 24 Young Eagles and was worried he wouldn’t meet his goal. Then, on December 28, he had the opportunity to make three more flights.
“Not only did I get over 25 Young Eagles flown, it put my total at 200!” Michael said. “One of the Young Eagles’ mothers called and let us know that her son won’t stop talking about his ride. He said it was the coolest thing he has ever done. I hope he will follow through and enter our aviation world.”
Michael has not only inspired future pilots and aviation enthusiasts, but has created a company culture of participation in aviation at Sporty’s that will help continue the success of Young Eagles for years to come.
“I want to thank Michael for his longtime support of the program,” said EAA Young Eagles Manager Brian O’Lena. “Sporty’s support of the Young Eagles has been well documented but the participation of Sporty’s employees, from Michael down throughout the organization, is truly remarkable.”