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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS Feed Young Eagles Award Winners Share Common Bond

By Barbara A. Schmitz

July 30, 2013 - They live in different places and have different jobs and interests. Yet this diverse group has a common bond; they share their love of aviation through EAA's Young Eagles program.

While thousands annually give of their time to make the Young Eagles program soar, a few have been honored for their extraordinary efforts. This year's winners will receive their awards Wednesday at the EAA AirVenture Museum's Eagle Hangar.

The 2013 award recipients include:

  • Larry and Maxine Durst, Phillips 66 Leadership Award
  • Bonnie Jennen, Ground Support Volunteer Award
  • Phil Englishman, Field Representative Award
  • Robert Opper, Chapter Coordinator Award
  • Phillips 66, Horizon Award

"The Young Eagles program wouldn't be successful without the dedication of our volunteers," says Michelle Kunes, Young Eagles program administrator. "They give of their time, talent, and airplanes to introduce youth to the wonders of aviation. This group of dedicated volunteers has made a big difference to the program and to the youth they have met."

Dursts
Larry and Maxine Durst

Phillips 66 Leadership Award
Larry and Maxine Durst say they were shocked to receive the 2013 Phillips 66 Leadership Award. "There are numerous people doing outstanding service for the organization," Larry says. "While the award and being elected to this elite group is great, it is what we do that is important."

They do a lot.

In June, Larry achieved something that only one other pilot has done before: flying 5,000 youngsters in the EAA Young Eagles program. But he couldn't have done it without his wife, Maxine. For more than 10 years, she has worked tirelessly to recruit students to fly as part of the Young Eagles initiative, as well as handling all the promotion and paperwork.

Larry says Maxine has recruited more than 5,300 people to take Young Eagles flights, working mainly through the local schools. But her job is more than just setting up flights.

She sends out letters about the program through the elementary schools, and then follows up and schedules an appointment for those who want a flight. Then the day before the flight, she calls people again, reminding them of their scheduled flight time. The day they fly kids, Maxine is at the airport working, making sure everything runs smoothly.

"It's the reactions of the youth and the parents that keep us doing this," says Maxine. "They tell us they are excited about the program, and grateful for what we do...."

The Dursts, members of EAA Chapter 495 in Roseburg, Oregon, say they have no intention of stopping their involvement in Young Eagles anytime soon.

"I just passed my physical, so I have another two years of flying kids," Larry says. "I don't fly to reach a certain number. I fly for the kids and their reactions. I'm like a gardener. I'm just planting seeds in their minds...."

Bonnie Jennen
Bonnie Jennen

Ground Support Volunteer Award
For Bonnie Jennen, of Erhard, Minnesota, the EAA Young Eagles program has been a family affair since her husband, Dave, starting giving the free flights to local youth.

"He wanted me to help," Bonnie recalls, "so I became his right-hand helper. I'm just a hard worker who is organized, and who knows how to get things done."

Bonnie has been getting things done for EAA Chapter 1174's Young Eagles program since 2004.

Bonnie says she loves flying, and loves sharing the fun of flying with Young Eagles. That's why she went to the Fergus Falls superintendent of schools and pitched the idea of giving students the free flights. "He was pretty enthusiastic about aviation so it ended up being an easy sell," she recalls.

After talking to teachers, they connected the Young Eagles flights to the eighth grade science curriculum, with Dave going into classrooms and explaining the basics of flight before students take their Young Eagles flight.

But Bonnie's role really begins on flight days. "I take care of the ground crew," she says. "Safety is our No. 1 priority. I make sure there is a ground crew member assigned to each pilot to take students out to the plane." She also makes sure there is food for the volunteers.

The Fergus Falls program was so successful that surrounding school districts soon asked if the Jennens would organize similar programs for them. In total, 300-plus students have gone up for a Young Eagles flight through the school partnerships this year.

Bonnie says she doesn't do any more than any other EAA volunteer. "EAA is a family affair for us, and that's what we're trying to promote. It's fun if everyone is involved and ... sharing in the glory of it."

Phil Englishman
Phil Englishman

Field Representative Award
Phil Englishman has been the field representative since 1996 for the Canadian province of Ontario, and he says he took on the role for a simple reason: to get more young people flying.

"I was a fence rat at the airport when some old geezer gave me a ride," he says. "I'm now paying it forward...."

As a field representative, Phil encourages pilots to give Young Eagles flights, as well as sign up youth in advance of flight rallies. But he also makes sure everything is done correctly -and safely - during the flights. That includes making sure the pilots are registered and insured, as well as having their medical certificates.

Phil does from airport to airport to help groups fly children. "I've done it at small airports," he says, "to international airports."

Besides offering the free flight, the Young Eagles program makes it easier for youth to maintain their interest in aviation, Phil says. Not all Young Eagles will become pilots, he acknowledges, but the program also opens youth up to the many careers that revolve around aviation, he adds.

Phil has logged 2,000 hours since becoming a pilot in 1995, and has flown nearly 400 Young Eagles in his Cessna 172E. He knows his actions have made a difference, with some of his Young Eagles going on to become private or commercial pilots or work in other aviation-related careers.

He is now working to get EAA and the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association united, so that COPA members can also fly Young Eagles. "We need to get still more young people interested in aviation," he says.

Despite all the work he does for Young Eagles, Phil says he was surprised to be named the 2013 Field Representative of the Year.

"I feel as if I don't deserve it; there are many others who do more than me."

Robert Opper
Robert Opper

Chapter Coordinator Award
Robert Opper may be receiving the 2013 Chapter Coordinator Award, but he says he couldn't do the job without the many volunteers who work in the air or on the ground during Young Eagles rallies.

Robert has been Chapter 50's coordinator for EAA since 2006. He organizes Young Eagles rallies, gets approval from the local airport, creates posters to publicize the events, recruits pilots and ground crews to volunteer, and more.

He has also flown 505 children as part of the program, and will occasionally provide fuel for other Young Eagles pilots when they are short on funds.

"I'm not a wealthy guy, but I'm not poor either," says Robert of Willard, Ohio. "Aviation fuel is $6 a gallon, and most airplanes use 10 gallons an hour. So it costs $60 an hour when you're out flying the kids. That's a chunk of change for a guy on a fixed income."

Why is he such a strong proponent of Young Eagles? "It's a good thing to get the kids involved, and for a lot of kids, their Young Eagles flight is their first time flying," he says. "The idea is to get them excited so they want to pursue aviation."

Robert knows the impact an airplane ride can have since he got involved in flying because someone gave him a ride. "My first flight was in a Piper Cub when I was 13," he recalls. "A farmer had a plane, and I did some work for him so he took me up."

He soloed in 1970, but a shortage of time and money meant he didn't get his private pilot certificate until 1996.

Robert says at first he didn't believe he received the award. "I thought there would be 200 or so people who were being named chapter coordinators, until Michelle (Kunes) made it clear that I was the chapter coordinator of the year.

"I've never been to Oshkosh before; this is quite the thrill."

Phillips 66

Horizon Award
Since 1994, Phillips 66 has helped lessen the financial burden for pilots who give of their time and airplanes to fly youth in EAA's Young Eagles program. For 20 years, the company has offered Young Eagles pilots a $1 per gallon rebate on Phillips 66 aviation avgas that is purchased at a Phillips 66 FBO.

"Thousands of pilots have taken advantage of the rebate, providing hundreds of thousands of youth free airplane rides," says Rosemary Leone, director of programs development for Phillips 66.

In addition, the company also sponsors EAA's Phillips 66 Leadership Award and, through its foundation, has given more than $250,000 in financial support to EAA and the Young Eagles program, she says. Its WingPoints Rewards program also allows people to donate their points to charities such as Young Eagles.

Phillips 66 has supported the Young Eagles program because it helps to grow the number of pilots. Naturally, that's good for a company that sells aviation gas.

But having flown Young Eagles herself, Leone says there is nothing more rewarding.

"At first the kids are nervous because they're not quite sure what the airplane ride will be like.... But when you're back down on the ground and they walk back to their parents, the first thing they will say to them is, 'I want to be a pilot.' You see that spark, and you know you helped cause it...."

Even if all Young Eagles don't become pilots, you have at least created a friend of aviation, Leone adds. "If they grow up and live near an airport, maybe they won't view planes as noisy or dangerous. They will have a positive view of aviation."

Leone says Phillips 66 is excited to receive the Horizon Award, which recognizes efforts that go beyond the basic Young Eagles flight. The company is honored for its long-standing relationship with the program.

Young Eagles opens up a world of options for youth, she says. "And Phillips 66 is just thrilled to be part of that whole process."

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Phillips 66 Celebrates 20 Years of Young Eagles Fuel Rebates
Since 1994, Phillips 66 has been contributing to the EAA Young Eagles program by providing fuel rebates to pilots who provide youngsters with flights.

“Phillips 66 Aviation is committed to spreading awareness and excitement about the wonders of aviation to the youth of America,” said P66’s director of programs development and general aviation, Rosemary Leone. “Programs like the Young Eagles are essential to the future of aviation.”

The rebate program has been used by more than 50,000 pilots across the country, and all of them are appreciative.

Robert “Butch” Bejna has taken 1,843 Young Eagles flying, and said bluntly, “The rebate definitely helps.”

“We definitely use the rebate,” said David Resler, who has flown 941 Young Eagles. “It helps encourage even more Young Eagle flights.”

Phillips 66 provides a $1 per gallon rebate to Young Eagles pilots every time they introduce a child to the wonder of flight.

“EAA is on its way to taking 2 million kids flying with the Young Eagles program,” Leone said. “We hope the fuel rebate will encourage more pilots to take more Young Eagles flights and help guide general aviation to a strong future.”

For more information on the Phillips 66 Aviation Young Eagles Rebate, visit www.Phillips66Aviation.com/youngeagles.      

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