( L to R ) EAA pilot Marty Harris  gets ready to give aviation youth  member Mason McClintock’s mother Keri for her adult Eagle flight. Mason’s grandfather Donald was also about to take his demonstration flight with a different pilot.

Article and Photos ByTed Luebbers

Are you one of those people who when walking down the street and hearing an airplane fly overhead, you are compelled to stop, and look skyward to see that plane? Maybe you once had a private pilot’s license years ago but you haven’t flown for years. You have always wanted to learn how to fly but never investigated just how to go about getting involved.

If this describes you, you are a good candidate for the Experimental Aircraft Association “Flying Start” program. This will show you how to take the first step to becoming a licensed Private Pilot.

This is what a group of folks did recently at an airport in Central, Florida.

Mike Hage, president of EAA Chapter 534 shows off the National EAA gold award banner the chapter earned for 2022.

On Saturday, May 27, 2023, eight prospective new pilots learned what they would have to do to earn a Private Pilot’s License with help from the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 534.

The Flying Start program was presented at the airport administration building of the Leesburg International Airport in Leesburg, Florida. This venue was selected because it offered a classroom setting, audio visual setup in one large room. Coffee and doughnuts were also served.

The attendance of about 30 people was made up of EAA Chapter 534 members, and those people who were there to learn what it takes to learn how to fly.

The meeting was opened by Mike Hage, president of EAA Chapter 534. He welcomed the guests and displayed the new banner that the chapter had earned to win the EAA gold award for 2022.

 He told the prospective pilots that by taking part in the Flying Start program they would automatically receive free National EAA membership for six months.  Also, the chapter membership unanimously voted to grant them six months free membership in EAA Chapter 534.

The Flying Start program was moderated by John Weber, chapter vice president and Light Sport Certified Flight Instructor.   He handed out materials explaining the program and used PowerPoint and video presentations. Questions were invited from the participants to make sure all the concerns were answered.

Chloe Kadletz, a chapter recipient of a $10,000 Ray Aviation Scholarship for dual flight instruction, gave a talk about why she wanted to become a pilot. Since acquiring her Private Pilot’s License, she has earned her Seaplane and Instrument ratings.

Mark Peebles, a retired corporate pilot, now flies single-engine vintage aircraft. He reviewed his flying career and explained why he wanted to fly.  Mark was one of the pilots that volunteered to do the demonstration flights and someone was lucky enough to go up with him in his beautifully restored 1946 Fairchild.

Judie Betz, who has been a pilot for over 40 years and owned two aircraft, tells what got her into aviation.

Judie Betz, EAA Chapter 534 Secretary, has been a pilot for over 40 years, owned two aircraft and explained why she wanted to fly. 

After classroom presentations, it was time for Adult Eagle demonstration flights. These flights were to last 30 minutes and a debrief was held.

Seven EAA chapter 534 pilots volunteered their planes, time and fuel for the Adult Eagle flights and the one Young Eagle flight. There are never charges for these flights.

Chloe Kadletz, Chapter 534 Ray Aviation scholarship recipient explained why she wanted to fly.

During the program a couple of family stories came to light.

In one case Mason McClintock, a chapter aviation youth member, inspired a couple of his family members to become pilots. His mother, Keri, had attended a lot of the meetings in the chapter hangar with him and as a result got bitten by the aviation bug. She was there to learn how to fly. It turns out that his grandfather, Donald Major, was also ready to explore the wonder of flight.

The second case was a father-and-son situation.

Alan Lepera had found out about the program and his father, Mike, came along to support his son but had not planned to take part. Alan was 17 years old and didn’t qualify yet for the Adult Eagle demonstration flight, but would for the Young Eagle first flight program for ages 8 to 17.  This turned out to be a better deal for Alan as he would get a lot more perks. For example, he would get a free Sporty’s online Learn to Fly Course which would prepare him for the Federal Aviation Administration written test for a Private Pilot’s License. During the program his dad became interested and decided to learn how to fly.

Jodie Soule, Chapter 534 Young Eagles Coordinator, handled all the paperwork for the eight adult Eagle flights and one Young Eagle flight for the day.

EAA has two free flight programs. Young Eagles is for young people ages 8 to 17 and Eagle flights for adults 18 years and older. EAA chapter pilots volunteer their time, aircraft, and fuel to acquaint their passengers with the wonder of flight with the hope of creating new pilots.

During the year EAA chapter 534 runs Young Eagle Rallies each month, with the exception of June through August. Both Young Eagle flights and Eagle flights arrangements must be made in advance.

If you would like to find out more about EAA National or EAA Chapter 534 you may go to the following websites, < www.eaa.org > or < www.eaachapter534.org >

 If you would like to make reservations for a Young Eagle flight, go to the following EAA website. < www.youngeagles.org >

EAA Chapter 534 will run another “Flying Start” program next spring and will announce the date and time in advance.

If you can’t wait that long, check out the chapter web site or contact John Weber at < ransfly@aol.com >. John can also arrange for Adult Eagle flights and information about the next Flying Start program.

This Flying Start program turned out to be a great success, and the weather cooperated fully to produce a beautiful flying day.

Now when these soon-to-be pilots look skyward when they hear an airplane overhead, they will have a good idea about how they can join the pilot ranks themselves, or maybe they are already flying and people on the ground are looking at them?


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