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Updated Saturday, June 11, 2011 8:56 PM

Young Eagles program helps create a passion for flight

BY JONATHAN CANNON

HERALD DEMOCRAT

Eleven-year-old Adam Dolezalek's expression was one of concentration as he put on his headset and prepared for his first flight at Sherman Municipal Airport Saturday. Only moments before, he was wearing a big grin as his mother, Sara Dolezalek, snapped a picture with her phone. But it was time to get down to business now.

Adam was one of a number of children and teens who got a bird's-eye view of Texoma Saturday as a part of the Experimental Aircraft Association's International Young Eagles Day. Sherman's EAA chapter, No. 323, coordinated the local Young Eagles Day, which gives children and teens ages 8 to 17 the opportunity to experience flight.

"It gives them a chance to experience real flying versus a Microsoft (flight) simulator," said Sherman Chapter President Rick Simmons, though he admitted those with simulator experience do catch on more quickly when they take the controls.

Dolezalek said the chance to take to the air is something her son has been looking forward to after weather caused the last local Young Eagles event to be canceled. "He's talked about nothing but flying since," she said. Adam, who seemed to the quiet type, said he enjoyed his time up in the air. Dolezalek said Adam wants to be a pilot.

Eight-year-old Justin Douglass was a bit more talkative and definitely excited about his second trip into the air. He said this time he sat in the front of the plane and especially enjoyed the aerial view of Lake Texoma.

Simmons and Jack Stanton, Young Eagles coordinator for the chapter, said creating excitement is what Young Eagles Day is all about, and it fulfills a couple of different goals.

Simmons said the flights help grow an interest in the science behind aviation. "A lot of the kids ask questions about, 'How does it stay in the air?' and all the different controls which are all part of the physics of flying an airplane," he said. "They don't understand that they're asking about physics, but that influences their desire to learn more. ... It fuels that fire of, 'Why does this work?' and 'Why does that happen?'"

He said it also "fuels their interest in aviation, and that's what we're about, is creating interest."

Stanton said feeding that interest is particularly important in helping to create future pilots. "Our mission is to do everything we can to increase the pilot starts," he said. "We have a real problem with pilot startups in the U.S."

Since its inception in 1992, the program appears to have had at least some success toward that goal. According to research by the association that was published on its website, Young Eagles are five times more likely to earn a pilot certificate than those who have not participated in the program.

"Almost 19,000 Young Eagles have become licensed pilots, and another several thousand have become licensed air traffic controllers and mechanics," said EAA Young Eagles Co-Chairman Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger in a video on the EAA website. "And even if a Young Eagles doesn't become a pilot they become a friend of aviation and a friend our local airports."

Sullenberger is a native of Denison who became famous in 2009 when he made an emergency landing of the commercial airliner he was piloting on the Hudson River. His daring decision resulted in the survival of all the fights passengers and crew.

Last week, the U.S. Airways Airbus A320 landed by Sullenberger and crew was moved to the Carolinas Aviation Museum in North Carolina where many of those involved gathered for a reception on Saturday.

"I have a passionate love of aviation and all things airplanes and the people who love airplanes," Sullenberger said in a 2009 interview with EAA Radio. "We're a big family. We share this passion and a concern. We want to see it continue and we want to share it."



Comments ... 1 found!

Young Eagles : 6/12/2011
This is a well done article and thank you for coming out and covering the Chapter 323 event. It would have been nice to provide the reporter a free ride also.

Ross Richardson
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