In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the EAA Young Eagles program in 2017, we’re featuring 25 Young Eagles whose stories inspire and exemplify the impact of the program.
Growing up in Tampa, Florida, Judd Hill’s earliest experiences with aviation were with the SUN ’n FUN International Fly-In & Expo in nearby Lakeland, which is where he eventually received his Young Eagles flight in 1993.
“At the time I was already taking lessons for my private but it was a way to support EAA and the overall goal and tell friends about it and whatnot,” he said adding that at that time the program was working toward flying one million Young Eagles by the 100th anniversary of flight in 2003. “It was [about] spreading the word and it was really just supporting aviation supporting the goal.”
Since then, the program has doubled its initial goal by flying the two millionth Young Eagle at AirVenture Oshkosh 2016.
“A lot of them say hey that was neat, but I think it’s worth it if one out of 10,000 say that made a difference and I really think that that has happened,” Judd said. “Pretty much every one of my friends growing up did [Young Eagles]. They were already kind of into it. But it was those 8-year-olds that did it back then that are now making a difference. And I think now that it really has become a generational program there’s not a lot that can legitimately say that.”
Passing on a passion for aviation and encouraging young people to pursue it is something that Judd said is extremely important to replenish the pilot population and continue the advances in technology that make flying safer and more accessible.
“I think it’s absolutely essential,” he said. “Not only for the promotion of general aviation but for the entire global economy. On the commercial side a lot of pilots are approaching retirement age and … in the next decade we will have more jobs than pilots.”
As airport manager at Canyonlands Field Airport in Moab, Utah, Judd said he has invited school programs to visit and explore all aspects of the airport.
“[The school groups] come out and it’s not just ‘hey, let’s go look at airplanes,’” he said. “They look at infrastructure … and then they meet with mechanics and learn that there’s all these different aspects.”
Judd said educating people, particularly young people, is especially important in small towns like Moab, which has a population of around 5,000, and is about 50 miles from the nearest town and more than 250 miles from the closest major city.
“I think it’s a matter of continual education especially in more rural areas,” he said. “It’s gonna be making it accessible and letting people know that it’s accessible. People these days don’t bat an eye when they drop $100 on two video games. But they could just as easily go fly around and what’s more fun to fly a plane or play a flight simulator?”
If you or someone you know has a Young Eagles story to share, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also share your Young Eagles photos or video with us on Twitter and Instagram using #YoungEagles25.