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“Nothing will ever equal that moment of exhilaration which filled my whole being when I felt myself flying away from the earth. It was not mere pleasure; it was perfect bliss…” — Prof. Jacques Alexandre Cesare Charles
“Fly along with me; I can’t quite make it alone. I try to make this life my own.” – Foo Fighters
Like many children (and professors and rock stars), my 14-year-old daughter, Holland, dreams of becoming a pilot.
This morning, for the very first time and with the grown ups’ permission, she took over the controls and flew a plane.
A real one.
In the sky.
…and landed safely, thank goodness!
And now she is more hooked than ever before on her aviation career prospects.
Perhaps you also dream of “slipping the surly bonds of earth”? If you are ages 8-17 and yearning to fly, you need to check out The Young Eagles. The coordinators of this all-volunteer program take young, would-be aviators on a 20-minute flight, thus allowing the youth to experience life as a pilot for the duration of their short flight. Children even get to take the controls momentarily!
The Young Eagles program is a win-win-win for everyone involved. Pilots volunteer their aircraft, fuel, time and expertise to take each student on their first cockpit flight. It is a thrill for pilots to create priceless expressions of pure awe on the children’s faces, as many of the young participants have never flown in any aircraft at all beforehand.
Parents of Young Eagles participants notice a new commitment on focus, motivation and maturity from their kids according to the program’s sponsor, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). A few minutes in the air has become a positive, lifechanging experience for the over 2 million Young Eagles who have participated ever since the program’s inception in 1992.
Believe it or not, the aviation experience doesn’t end when the flight does. Each child receives a certificate of participation, his or her own first log book, and his or her own code to sign up for Sporty’s Complete Online Flight Training course! Once the child has successfully completed the course, he or she can sign up for an introductory flight lesson at a nearby airfield.
This all must cost an arm and a leg, right? Flying is expensive!
Incredibly, the Young Eagles program is offered at no charge! Even the online aviation lessons and first flight lesson are free. On top of these benefits, EAA offers generous scholarship monies to students serious about their path in the aviation industry.
Flying an aircraft isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. In addition to pilots, there are multitudes of aviation enthusiasts working together worldwide to keep planes flying successfully in the air. As a Young Eagle you can still learn the steps to take to become an air traffic controller, baggage handler, airline reservations agent (I did this myself many years ago!), flight attendant and more.
For safety’s sake, on the day of your Young Eagles flight it’s important to ensure your child will follow the important rules laid down by his or her pilot. Parents can rest assured that each pilot and aircraft is properly certified by the FAA.
So what are you waiting for? Do you fight your little brother for the window seat? Enjoy dodging the harried crowds in airport corridors with your roll-on luggage? Excited at the idea of visiting all sorts of unchartered territory? Perhaps a career as a pilot is perfect for you!
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes the annual Occupational Outlook Handbook, from which I would like to share the qualities they say make a successful pilot:
Communication skills. Pilots must speak clearly when conveying information to air traffic controllers and other crew members. They must also listen carefully for instructions.
Observational skills. Pilots regularly watch over screens, gauges, and dials to make sure that all systems are in working order. They also need to maintain situational awareness by looking for other aircraft or obstacles. Pilots must be able to see clearly, be able to judge the distance between objects, and possess good color vision.
Problem-solving skills. Pilots must be able to identify complex problems and figure out appropriate solutions. When a plane encounters turbulence, for example, pilots assess the weather conditions and request a change in route or altitude from air traffic control.
Quick reaction time. Pilots must respond quickly, and with good judgment, to any impending danger.
My advice? Visit www.youngeagles.org today and follow the directions to seek out an introductory Young Eagles flight experience with a pilot volunteer in your area. Then become a student member of EAA and receive free admission to over 300 Science and Technology museums in addition to numerous other benefits. I hope you will sign up, participate, and tell me all about it in the comments, below.
As a budding aviation buff, you should also spend some time with my “Journey Itself” video series for some visual fun.
And now I gotta fly… and learn aviation myself vicariously by looking over Holland’s shoulder as she watches the Young Eagles’ complimentary ground instruction online training. So cool! Wings up!