My son has been interested in aeronautics for as long as I can remember. He’ll spend hours watching documentaries on flight.
For a while, my dad was working on becoming a private pilot. Circumstances did not work in my dad’s favor, however he hung onto his course materials. My son was the lucky recipient of these book some time ago and he poured over them for days.
Get him in a room with a pilot and he’ll talk incessantly about Boeing 747, Airbus, you name it. He’ll go into detail about the Boeing factory sharing details I had never thought to explore myself. I’ve often scratched my head wondering if what he recites is even accurate.
When a friend, whose husband happens to be a helicopter pilot and instructor, tells you that the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is giving kids between the ages of 8 and 17 a free lesson to see what real pilots do on the ground and in the air – you change your weekend plans to assure this opportunity is not missed.
He awoke early on Saturday morning and was so eager to get there that he wouldn’t eat breakfast. “Let’s go, Dad!” he begged with a little quiver in his voice I hadn’t heard previously. It was clear he was also a little apprehensive.
Though they had arrived early, he was given ticket #69 of 80. He was in for a long wait. He was distraught.
He called me several times nearly in tears, “What should I do, Mom?”
“I can’t make that decision for you, Buddy. It’s up to you. You need to decide what you really want,” my husband and I both relayed to him seemingly on auto reply.
At one point he made the decision to go. “I would rather go home and play the piano or work on building my own piano (a project we can’t seem to dissuade him from undertaking – when he sets his mind on something, he is so focused) than sit here for four hours for just a 10 minute flight.”
As he prepared to leave, one of the volunteer coordinators encouraged him to go to the cafe and get a little something to eat while he waited. This sounded like a good plan so he took her advice.
Shortly after his order arrived, his number was called. His attitude turned around instantly. Game time. He was excited now.
Young Eagles Program
Since 1992, more than 1.9 million Young Eagles have enjoyed a flight from EAA’s network of volunteer pilots. For many, it was the start of their journey to becoming a pilot, aircraft mechanic, air traffic controller, or many other career possibilities.
- On the ground: Your pilot explains what will happen during the flight. You may talk about the airplane, review an aeronautical chart (or map), and complete a careful “walk-around” preflight inspection of the airplane.
- Just before takeoff: Your pilot explains the interior of the airplane, including the operation of the aircraft door, safety belts, and instrument panel.
- In the air: The flight lasts between 15 and 20 minutes. And, if you want, your pilot may let you take the controls!
- Back on the ground: There’s more time for you to ask questions about the flight. Your pilot is happy to tell you more about flying and their particular airplane.
Participants also get an official Young Eagles logbook with a personal code to activate their free EAA Student Membership and Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course ($199 value). Upon successful completion of this course (or ground school), Young Eagles (at least 13 years of age) are eligible for a free First Flight Lesson ($120 value). Flight training then commences.
Pursuing a Private Pilot License
My son has talked about becoming a pilot since he first expressed interest in planes. Ideally, he would like to become a commercial pilot. With his Nystagmus, however, I am not sure that is possible. Pursing a private pilot license, however, is a goal that is achievable.
The pilot he flew with this past weekend suggested he hang onto the access code he was given a couple of years. Upon completing ground school, he’ll be able to better reach the pedals, and be ready to solo by the time he is 16 (the minimum age). Thereby, if he plans it out right and works hard, he can be licensed to fly by the time he turns 17.
- Age – 17 years old and older.
- Education requirements – Must be able to read, write, and speak English fluently.
- Flying time requirement – Minimum of 40 hours of flight training.
20 hours of dual instruction including:
- 3 hours of cross-country flight to airports more than 50 miles away.
- 3 hours of instrument training and flying.
- 3 hours of night flying including a 100 nautical mile round trip and 10 night takeoffs and landings.
- 3 hours of instruction within 60 days prior to your practical test.
10 hours of solo flight including:
- 5 hours of cross-country flying including a 150 nautical mile round trip.
- 3 takeoffs and landing at an airfield with a control tower.
Becoming a Young Eagle is easy and it’s offered free of charge. Visit www.youngeagles.org for information on a flight near you.