Why teaching the young to love flying is important


When I was 8 years old, I loved to watch the Stearman crop duster airplanes spray our fields for insects. I would marvel at these crop duster pilots flying under telephone lines and pulling back up into the air with the roar of the big engine. Then I got to meet a crop duster called B Mac. He was my hero. He must have noticed me because the next day after he sprayed our crops, he put on an air show for me. He pulled straight up over our farm house hanging the Stearman airplane on the prop. A white scarf billowed out from the back of the cockpit. I was hooked.

I started building model airplanes and flying them in my back yard. I only wished that in my day they had Young Eagles where the Ellensburg Experimental Aircraft Association local Chapter 492 flies kids between the ages of 8 to 17 every year. It has been so well received that we fly about 60 kids each year. One year, a brilliant teacher even brought her entire class to fly in the Ellensburg EAA Young Eagles program. It is a lot of work and expense for the pilots to spend their own money to fly the kids. Some pilots have even flown up from the Tri Cities to fly our Ellensburg kids.

I feel the kids of today just want to play video games and need a passion like flying. I have had the passion for flying almost 60 years and recently built my own experimental airplane from scratch in the shop next to my house in 4-½ years. And yes I still am building model airplanes.

My best moment at Young Eagles came from a young girl who was told she was too young to fly in the Ellensburg Young Eagles. She wrote me a letter telling me why she should fly. The letter said: “ I think I should be able to fly because I have gone in my grandpa’s airplane. He even let my make it go up and down, left and right and I am going to make an invention so I can fly.” She then drew me a picture of a tail dragger airplane. I still have the letter today. Who knows? Maybe she will become an aeronautical engineer like me and design and build airplanes like I did at Boeing.

LEE BATES, Ellensburg, Wash.


  1. says

    Thats a great story Lee. Being a hangar door manufacturer i spend some time on air parks and small municipal airports where the younger generation are learning to fly, even if it’s less popular in modern times, it’s still a pleasure to see.

  2. says

    Kids today are glued either on the pc or the tv. Noble hobbies like airplane collecting has lost its charm in the young generation. It’s time to spark that heroic enthusiasm of collecting model planes.

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