(center) EAA Chapter 534 pilot Hans Gunter Vossler and his Young Eagle crew give a thumbs up after their flight in his helicopter.

Article and photos by Ted Luebbers

Twelve young people got a pleasant surprise at their Young Eagles Rally by experiencing flight in a fixed-wing aircraft and a jet-powered helicopter.

EAA pilot Peter Doran and Young Eagle crew member Greg Edison.

This took place at the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 534 based at the Leesburg International Airport in Leesburg, FL on March 2..

EAA Chapter 534 tries to run a Young Eagle event for kids once a month to give them the experience of taking a flight in a small single-engine aircraft.

Lately, the chapter has had problems with weather that caused cancellations or rescheduling of these events. It also looked dubious that this one might be a washout as well, due to a strong cold front bearing down on Central Florida.

At 7 am on Saturday, chapter VP John Weber took a close look at the weather and concluded they could squeeze it in before the storm hit the area. It turned out, it was a bit cloudy but with a ceiling between 4 and 5 thousand feet and little wind, everything was a go.

Twelve prospective Young Eagles, their parents, and friends poured into the EAA hangar to complete the paperwork and be assigned to a chapter pilot and plane.

Student pilot and Squadron 534 aviation youth member Nick Hopkins demonstrates how to do a preflight to Young Eagles.

Festivities began with a demonstration of how a pilot would do a preflight for their aircraft. Chuck Troutman taxied his newly built Zenith 601 to the front of the hangar for this. Student pilot and Squadron 534 youth group member, Nick Hopkins, went through the procedure and explained what to look for.

The chapter does this as a routine. Each pilot is responsible for doing this on their planes before the Young Eagle Rally.

These rallies are promoted by the National EAA in Oshkosh, WI, and carried out by local chapters worldwide. They are open to kids aged 8 to 17.

( R to L ) Eleven year old Amilie Weaver and her best friend Gracie Abbott really loved their flight.

The motivation for this is to have children experience the thrill and wonder of flight in a small general aviation aircraft. For many of these young people, it is the first time they have ever been in any plane.

The hope is that this experience will kindle an interest in aviation so that later on they might want to become private pilots themselves or become interested in some other aspect of aerospace.

Squadron 534 member Isaiah Kadletz Enjoys the front seat in Hans Gunter Vossler’s Eurocopter

Due to pilots all over the world aging out and commercial pilots retiring, there will be many aviation opportunities for these kids in the future.

Young Eagle rallies are free. Volunteer EAA pilots provide their time, planes, and fuel at no charge.

During these 20-to-30-minute flights, the kids learn a lot about what makes an airplane fly and might get a chance to get the feel of the controls under the watchful eye of their EAA pilot.

Upon completion of the flight, each one of them will receive a commemorative certificate of their flight and an official logbook signed by their pilot.

Additional perks include a free EAA Student Membership, free access to Sporty’s Learn to Fly online course, and $130 toward an hour of dual instruction at a flight school of their choice, just to name a few.

On this day EAA Chapter 534 provided six pilots, flying five fixed-wing single-engine planes and one pilot of a jet-powered helicopter.

There were also 15 EAA chapter members available to help with the paperwork, and computer, escorting folks back and forth to the ramp and explaining the aircraft projects going on in the hangar.

EAA Chapter 534 also has an active aviation youth program called Squadron 534. When parents and children discover this, the Young Eagles event may become the catalyst for joining up.

Here they will work alongside chapter mentors learning how to use tools properly, build and repair experimental aircraft, and have access to the chapter’s flight simulators. This is a great way to keep that interest they may have in aviation moving forward.

If you would like to learn more about National EAA you may go to the following website, www.eaa.org. To find out more about the Young Eagles program, go to www.youngeagles.org.

For information about Mid Florida EAA Chapter 534 in Leesburg FL, go to www.chapter534.org.

EAA Chapter 534 is a tax-free 501C3 organization able to receive cash or in-kind donations of support.


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