Champaign County youths interested in taking to the sky to learn more about the aviation industry will have the opportunity this spring to become one of nearly 2 million Young Eagles worldwide when volunteer pilots from the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 9 converge on Grimes Field for a Young Eagles Rally.
Formed in 1992 by the EAA, the Young Eagles program is made possible by local pilots who volunteer their time and aircraft to help spread interest in the aviation field by allowing children to experience first hand what it’s like to take flight.
On April 23, EAA Chapter 9 volunteers from throughout central Ohio will be providing free airplane rides from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (weather permitting) for area children between the ages of 8 to 17.
“The Young Eagles program offers a wonderful opportunity to introduce young people to the world of aviation,” Grimes Field Manager Lou Driever said. “It’s a great way for parents to take kids for an eye-opening adventure at absolutely no cost. This event would not be possible without the volunteer pilots, so hats off to all of them.”
EAA Chapter 9 has six Young Eagles rallies planned for 2016 with the Grimes Field gathering serving as the kickoff event.
“(Our) program is a mobile program, meaning we go to several different airports to do our events,” said EAA Chapter 9 Young Eagles Coordinator Andrew Hale. “This way we can spread aviation to many kids and not always the same kids.
“We enjoy getting out and meeting new and different people. I know there are some pilots who have been waiting all winter and just can’t wait to fly some Young Eagles,” he added.
When deciding on which central Ohio airports to visit this year, Hale said a stop at the Urbana Municipal Airport was a no-brainer.
“Grimes Field is a great location for doing Young Eagles because it is rich in aviation, and a lot of history of aviation can be learned while at the airport,” he said. “Above and beyond just having a Young Eagles flight, there is the Champaign Aviation Museum, the B-17 restoration, and the Grimes Flying Lab all located on the field. The pilots also love the field because there is the Airport Café right on the airport for a good meal.”
At some point this summer, Hale said, the EAA Young Eagles program will reach a milestone when the 2 millionth youth receives his or her free flight.
“The kids are our future. They will grow up to have wonderful careers and hobbies,” Hale said. “Why not a career or hobby in aviation?
“If we do not try to inspire young kids into aviation, aviation as a whole will not continue and grow. Kids can only become interested in what they are exposed to,” he added.
To take part in the free flight on April 23, which will last approximately 20 minutes, each child must fill out a waiver form that must be signed by a parent or guardian.
The EAA’s website states each pilot is licensed by the FAA and all aircraft are likewise licensed by the government. All flights are conducted according to federal regulations, and no aerobatic maneuvers will be performed.
For more information on the Young Eagles Rally, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.