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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedMany play a part in Young Eagles Flight Plan
By Barbara A. Schmitz
An African proverb states that it takes a whole village to raise a child. The same holds true when it comes to getting and keeping today’s youth interested in aviation, and EAA’s Young Eagles Flight Plan, supported by ConocoPhillips and many other partners, is a necessary step in making that happen.

“The effort is called a Flight Plan because it pulls together several different elements and offerings to create a very straightforward pathway for young people to turn their interest and passion for flight into reality,” said Elissa Lines, EAA vice president of donor and business relations. “The pathway for each young person may be different and the outcomes may be different, but whatever their final destination is, they can get the tools, meet the mentors, and participate in programs that will help them achieve their goals.”

Whereas Young Eagles has always provided youth ages 8-17 with a free airplane ride, participating youth can now find more. For youth under the age of 13, EAA offers online programming and newsletters, Air Academy opportunities and more. For youth 13 and older, EAA offers the Next Step program, an effort made possible through EAA’s partnership with Sporty’s.

Hal Shevers, Sporty’s founder, shares EAA’s vision to provide the tools to help aspiring young pilots get the resources needed, Lines said. For youth 13 and older, Sporty’s provides free access to its Complete Pilot Training Course, which prepares youth to pass the FAA written private pilot exam.

Youth ages 14-19 who have flown as a Young Eagle and completed part one of the Sporty’s online course can then get a free flight lesson, with EAA issuing a voucher of up to $120 for a local flight school.

It’s costly to provide all the elements of the Young Eagles Flight Plan. Lines estimates between 500 and 1,000 young people will take advantage of the free flight offer each year, at a cost of $60,000 to $120,000. That’s why EAA is looking for contributors to donate toward the scholarships.

In addition, EAA will provide a series of scholarships to use as awards during the year, in hopes of keeping youth enrolled in Next Step and moving forward in earning a private pilot certificate, Lines said. Scholarships will also be available to the EAA Air Academy for those Young Eagles who are 15 or younger who have completed the Sporty’s program. Flight training scholarships of $1,500 and $7,500, paid for by individual donors and the Gathering of Eagles, will be available for Young Eagles ages 15-19 who have completed the Sporty’s program and passed the FAA written test.

The $1,500 scholarships toward flight training will be given every other month, and the $7,500 scholarship will be given yearly. Lines said 3,200 young people are currently taking the ground school.

In addition, scholarships will also be awarded for youth attending college, technical schools or trade programs, she said.

Longtime EAA members and supporters, Jim and Angela Thompson, announced in September 2009 an endowment to EAA to help fund scholarships in former Young Eagles Chairman Harrison Ford’s name for young people on the path to becoming a pilot. The endowment matched contributions from other donors up to $100,000, creating a scholarship fund of $200,000, Lines said.

Plans are to award $25,000 in Harrison Ford Scholarships to youth seeking support to attend EAA Air Academy, to participate in flight training, or to pursue college or technical school programming, Lines added.

“This fund, along with the other scholarship funds available, will empower the dreams of many young people,” Lines said. “It is very exciting to see the full community—individual, foundation, and corporate—come together to strengthen the future for our youth and for aviation in general.”

Lines said others are also stepping forward to help with the initiative, such as Lightspeed Aviation, which has contributed cash and in-kind support to encourage participation in the Next Step program and to energize EAA’s chapter volunteer network. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is also providing mentoring for youth having difficulties in flight school.

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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