You may have not heard of the Young Eagles organization if you’re not involved within the aviation industry, however if you are, perhaps you have taken part or even flown a ‘Young Eagle’ yourself. Young Eagles strives to introduce aviation and the art (and science) of flight to younger people (ages 8-17) as a way of encouraging them to pursue their dreams or to simply introduce them to aviation in an exciting way. To date, more than 1.9 million Young Eagles have taken to the skies for their first flight!
The annual International Young Eagles day is this Saturday, June 13th and encourages those who have easy access to an airplane, to take younger people flying. Whether it’s a friend, neighbor or relative, it’s important to the success of our industry that we encourage and inspire younger people to get involved in an industry that many of us are so passionate about.
Taking a look at the U.S. Civil Airmen Statistics provided by the FAA, the number of active pilots has decreased by nearly 30% from 827,071 in 1980 to roughly 593,499 in 2014. During that same timeframe, the number of student pilots (or pilots who are pursuing their pilots license) decreased more than 40% from roughly 200,000 to 120,285. It is imperative that we involve our younger generation in aviation.
I’ll never forget, the first time I took my daughter flying, she was five years old and we took to the skies on what would be referred to as our first “girls flight.” We taxied out onto the runway and I turned to her and said, “Are you ready?” She anxiously shook her head. I lined the airplane up on the runway centerline and we were off. Within 30 seconds we were airborne and as we climbed through 300 feet AGL, to my surprise she began to clap. I turned to look at her and smiled out of confusion because it was just another takeoff but perhaps more importantly, it was her first takeoff - all the reason to celebrate!
This weekend, make it a point to take part in the annual International Young Eagles Day. It doesn’t necessarily mean you must take a child flying to make a difference. Simply taking them to the airport to watch airplanes takeoff and land is sometimes all it takes. But, there’s no doubt that sharing a flight in a general aviation airplane with a child or young adult is going to be one of the most memorable moments of their lives. As if that's not reason enough to head to the airport this weekend, as you take to the skies and you look over at the smile on that child’s face (or hear them clapping!) – it will inevitably make all the difference for you, too.