Young Eagles Honorary Chairman Harrison Ford
started the Gathering of Eagles with that simple statement, which says
so much about the spirit of the program and the pilots who make it a
Golf legend Arnold
Palmer with aviation legend R.A. "Bob" Hoover at the
Gathering of Eagles fundraiser. Photo by Jamie Flores
Rae Lovenburg successfully bids on a ride with the AeroShell Aerobatic Team.
Photo by Jamie Flores
Over 1,000 people
enjoyed dinner and guest speakers at the annual Gathering of
Eagles event held in the Eagle Hangar of the EAA AirVenture
Museum. Photo by Jim Labre
More than 1,000 people gathered in the
EAA Museum Thursday night, July 31st for both live and silent auctions
to raise money for the EAA Young Eagles program and other EAA activities
using aviation to inspire scholarship and achievement. EAA members,
government officials, aircraft and kit manufacturers, local residents,
and celebrities alike were greeted by youth who had cultivated a passion
for flying through an initial exposure from EAA Young Eagles and
EAA President Tom Poberezny emphasized
the importance of the program to EAA. "The children and youth we
introduce to aviation today are the members, engineers, and innovators
of tomorrow," he said.
The Cessna Aircraft Company served as the
hosting sponsor of the event for the fourth consecutive year. CEO Jack
Pelton expressed the company's pride in supporting Young Eagles.
"EAA does a fantastic job of preserving the history of aviation,
and ensures the future through this important program."
The event and auction raised more than $3
million for EAA's mission-oriented programs, including the Young Eagles
operations that provide first-flight experiences to 80,000 to 100,000
kids each year. EAA will use the proceeds to administer this nationwide
program and to build on the follow-up programs such as academic
scholarships, EAA Air Academy, and EAA AeroScholars online instruction.
With Harrison Ford's term as Young Eagles
chair coming to an end after AirVenture 2009, Ford sees the program as
an important way to protect general aviation. The program can act as an
ambassador to regulators, communities, and the industry.
"There are a lot of threats to
general aviation today," he said earlier in the day to a group of
EAA-member volunteers for the Young Eagles program. "EAA Young
Eagles can help us show the value of GA in our communities. Because of
that, it becomes even more important to maintain the program and to keep
the events going around the country."
Items donated to this year's auction
included trips, flights with celebrity pilots like Sean D. Tucker, a
limited-edition Harley Davidson motorcycle, artwork, and other
aviation-focused items. A surprise donation of a stay in Jackson,
Wyoming, and dinner with Ford garnered one of the highest prices of the
An additional treat for the auction
winners was an entry into a drawing for two days on an aircraft carrier,
including a catapult takeoff from the flight deck.
The traditional matching donation program
called "Raise the Windsock" gave donors an opportunity to
challenge each other to donate to Young Eagles. Celebrities like Arnold
Palmer and Harrison Ford both shared their personal stories about why
aviation and programs like Young Eagles are important to them as they
made their respective donations.
"I didn't come to flying until I was
53 years old," Ford said as he made his matching gift. "But it
has made me feel young and challenged again, and given me an opportunity
to give back."
Champion golfer Arnold Palmer said that
his career in golf could not have existed without aviation. "When I
was young, I was afraid to fly, and I knew that I couldn't have this job
without air travel," he said. "So I learned to fly, fell in
love with aviation, and now have over 18,000 hours logged."
Back at AirVenture for the first time in
28 years, actor John Travolta also urged members to fly with Young
Eagles and give to the program. "When I was a kid, everyone was
interested in flying," he said. "Nowadays, programs like this
will keep that interest alive and motivate the next generation."
The highlight of the auction was the
final item of the night, a special-edition, one-of-a-kind P-51 inspired
Ford Mustang specially designed for the Gathering of Eagles fundraiser.
The car features a full-glass roof and interior appointments reminiscent
of the P-51 cockpit, and was signed by the Ford designer, engineer, and
legendary Ford officials Jack Rousch and Carol Shelby, as well as
Harrison Ford. The car fetched a high bid of $500,000 to benefit EAA's
"With this generous giving comes an
important mandate," Poberezny said at the end of the night.
"We can keep kids flying, and keep general aviation at the top of
the minds of communities all over the country."
Mustang raises $500,000
Motor Company’s one-off vehicle, the Mustang AV8R, sold for $500,000
Thursday evening at the Gathering of Eagles charity auction, part of EAA
AirVenture Oshkosh 2008.
built the Mustang AV8R specifically for the auction. Proceeds from the
sale will support EAA youth education and inspirational experiences that
prepare young people to become the engineers, pilots, and innovators of
tomorrow. Ford is the exclusive automotive partner of EAA AirVenture
Oshkosh and recently announced that it has extended its partnership with
the event through 2011.
is a longtime supporter of EAA and its mission to showcase the finest
innovation and technology in the world of flight," said EAA
President and AirVenture Chairman Tom Poberezny. "The hard work of
the Mustang AV8R team and Ford’s generosity in donating this beautiful
vehicle to the Gathering of Eagles will help EAA do some amazing things
for future engineers, pilots, and other young people interested in
Produced using internal
resources and named to commemorate Ford’s participation in AirVenture,
the one-of-a-kind, fully-customized Mustang AV8R was created by a team
including Mustang Design Chief Doug Gaffka and Mustang Chief Nameplate
Engineer Paul Randle, with performance support from Ford Racing.