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EAA Young Eagles- Keeping the Legacy Alive

By Garth Calitz Photos By Andre Venter

Brakpan Airfield was the chosen location for the latest in a series of EAA Young Eagles Events organised by EAA Chapter 322. The airfield was a buzz from very early on Saturday morning with an influx of aircraft from all over Gauteng and surrounding provinces. Initially, 45 children between the ages of 8 and 17 were invited to enjoy a flight with volunteer pilots. The lucky children were predominantly from the Springs Central Air Scouts Scout Group and The Pretoria Boys High Aeronautical Society, who themselves volunteer to do duty as marshals at many of the EAA events, this time they were on the receiving end of the fun.

Warren Lovell and his enthusiastic team put together an event that will be remembered by all the young ones for many years to come. As always there was no shortage of pilots to fly the excited youngsters, many of the EAA Stalwarts that always seem to be the driving force behind most events arrived to make the day special. There was such an excess of pilots willing to take the kids for fights that when everyone had their opportunity some of the pilots were walking around the clubhouse area offering flights to the adults that came to enjoy the activities, any excuse to fly will do.

The Young Eagles Programme was created 31 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 Ex SAAF Alouette II and III helicopters belonging to Charles Fuller and Rob Osner proved to be very popular amongst the young passengers, Rob and Charles were kept very busy. The smiles on these young people's faces when they landed were what the day special.

Not to be outdone by the “fling wings” the fixed-wing squadron managed to persuade many of the kids to join them in “real” aeroplanes, no matter what they flew in the kids all had the same reaction when they emerged out of the aircraft, absolute joy. Hopefully, many of these young people will go on to become pilots or take up one of the many other careers that the aviation industry has to offer.

Well done to all that gave up their time and precious fuel free of charge to introduce yet another batch of young ones to the amazing world of aviation.