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EAA Young Eagles Descend on Execujet

By Garth Calitz

The EAA and Execujet celebrated Young Eagles Day on Saturday 8 June, at the Execujet complex at Lanseria International Airport. Execujet VP Gavin Kiggen with the definite support of Justin Gloy, Safety and Event Manager at Execujet generously made Execujet’s facilities available to promote aviation awareness. Justin was himself, introduced to aviation as a Young Eagle, and his team went out of its way to make this event the massive success it was.

It was an early morning for all concerned with the children arriving at 7:30 and assembling at the registration table manned by a host of EAA volunteers, did I mention that it was freezing cold? Once the kids were registered, they were ushered to the Execujet staff canteen for coffee tea and muffins and later a safety briefing by Marie Reddy and a short talk on how to become a pilot by Tyla Puzey.

The soon-to-be flyers were invited from three local schools three local schools as well as some children of Lanseria ATC staff the numbers were filled with kids somehow connected to EAA members. Michael Maligana, the headmaster of Kwena Molapo Comprehensive Farm School arrived with thirty young aviation enthusiasts, St. Ansgar's High School Headmaster, John Chabalala, Managed to round up fifteen learners ready to take to the air and Dainfern College’s Brain Leahy brought eight future aviators. Ultimately there were 85 young enthusiasts flown.

The Young Eagles Programme was created 32 years ago by EAA members in the USA and has grown exponentially and in the process introduced millions of young people to the joys of flight. In 2016 the programme reached the two million mark and has grown more since then. EAA chapters from close to 100 countries have hosted Young Eagles events, making this the most successful program of its kind in history.

The predecessor to the Young Eagle's programme, “Project Schoolflight” was the brainchild of Paul Poberezny co-founder of the Experimental Aircraft Association, his goal was to introduce aviation to the youth. Project Schoolflight successfully ran from 1955 to 1987, sadly the global economic slump following the “Black Monday” market crash left the project high and dry.

In 1991, a survey of long-time EAA members was conducted to help determine the nascent organization's future priorities. Nearly 92% said EAA's primary objective should be to involve more young people in aviation. The survey also showed that a flight experience inspired respondents toward aviation. On May 13, 1992, following several months of coordination by EAA's then-President Tom Poberezny and members of the EAA Board of Directors, management, staff and volunteers, the Young Eagles Program was unveiled at a Washington, DC news conference. This legacy is now being kept alive by EAA chapters all over the world including here in sunny South Africa.

The flying started at about 9:30 with one of the first flights saw Philip Eloff, the chief pilot at Execujet taking some very fortunate young ones for a flight in a Cessna Citation Mustang. The rest of the morning volunteers continued to fly the young people, often having to hold for long periods as scheduled flights by FlySafair were prioritised over general aviation activities.

The legendary Brian Emmenis from Capital Sounds was invited by Execujet to keep everyone entertained while the flights were ongoing. Brian as always managed to increase the anticipation of the kids with his personal stories of aviation experiences over the years.

The smiles on the kid's faces, when they returned from their first taste of aviation, was more than enough reward for the pilots who made their aircraft and time available. Hopefully, many of these young people will at least remember this experience for their lives or decide to make a career in the wonderful world of aviation.

Not to be outdone by the hoards of fixed-wing aircraft Eugene Couzyn brought his Alouette II with which he and Marie Reddy flew at least three groups of young eagles offering them a rotor-wing experience.

Sadly, due to a family commitment, I could not stick around for the presentation of the certificates after the event but I’m sure the smiles were off the charts. Well done to all the EAA members for organising this wonderful event with the generosity of all the members of the Execujet team. The pilots who offered their time and aircraft are key to the Young Eagles without their selflessness there would be no events like this, Thank you all.

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