For Young Eagle, Passion Plus Encouragement Led to Career in Aviation

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.

For 25-year-old corporate charter pilot Julia Harrington, EAA 780534, an enthusiasm for aviation is in her blood.

“[My dad] is an aviation enthusiast. Just always loved airplanes,” she said. “He’s always just wanted to be around it so he’s always had a couple of friends he made from going to AirVenture without me.”

Julia and her dad Chris Hamlin at her first AirVenture.

Julia said growing up she frequently asked her dad to take her along on trips to Oshkosh for AirVenture and he finally agreed to bring her along when she was 8. Three years later, she took her first ride in a small aircraft with a friend of her father, Bruce Granger, who was a Young Eagles pilot and started on the path to a career in aviation.

Until that Young Eagles ride, Julia said she hadn’t considered becoming a professional pilot.

“It was definitely a turning point because I’d never been in a small airplane before,” she said. “I do remember my first AirVenture I was watching Patty Wagstaff fly and I was like, I definitely want to be a pilot in some capacity. I just didn’t know that it would end up being my career.”

While attending the University of Illinois, Julia said she first began to consider a career in aviation.

“My plan was to major in journalism and minor in aviation and after my first solo flight that’s when I knew,” she said. “There’s nothing I enjoy, there’s nothing that fuels my passion as much as this. It had to be what I would dedicate all my time and energy to.”

After college, Julia participated in an intern program offered by Cessna at the time that allowed her to fly all over the country sharing her love of aviation with others including a few Young Eagles.

Although she was born with aviation in her blood, Julia said the connections she made through the Young Eagles program were a great help in getting her to where she is today.

Julia Harrington and Bruce Granger, who gave her a Young Eagles ride in 2003, at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2016.

“First of all, the network of pilots. My dad’s friend, I’m actually still in communication with him now and he’s been a big encouragement for me in my career progression moving forward,” she said. “And then just seeing all of the other people who were going through the Young Eagles program and then using it to turn it into a career was inspiring.”

Julia encouraged future aviators not to give up on their dreams even when achieving them seems impossible.

“[Aviation’s] not necessarily the easiest because there’re usually some type of challenge in terms of either money or time but don’t let that stand in your way because there are so many different resources to help overcome those obstacles,” she said. “It can be challenging but it is the most rewarding thing to conquer.”

If you or someone you know has a Young Eagles story to share, e-mail us at You can also share your Young Eagles photos or video with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #YoungEagles25.

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