Chattahoochee Valley Chapter 677 of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA 677), based at Columbus Airport (CSG) in Columbus, Ga., reports it carried 248 Young Eagles during 2011, including 13 who flew on Dec. 31.
The EAA Young Eagles program is designed to introduce children between 8 and 17 years old to general aviation by providing a free introductory flight. The pilots and ground crew are all volunteers, and the use of the aircraft is underwritten by the owners.
“Even though we fell just short of our goal of 250, the year was still a tremendous success,” said EAA 677 president Ernie Kelly. “Our official number includes only those children between age 8 and 17. We also flew some parents and siblings as well, so it’s possible we actually introduced more than 300 people to recreational flying during the year.”
EAA 677 was able to carry so many children by hosting a “Young Eagles Rally” on the last Saturday of every month. A regular listing in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer’s “To Do” section, postings on the EAA website, and strong relationships with local youth organizations helped bring in would-be aviators, despite having bad weather on three or four occasions, he noted.
The group also relied heavily on volunteers and donations: Chapter members volunteered as ground crew to provide safety briefings, complete paperwork, and organize the kids; pilots donated their time and use of their aircraft; and corporate members — including Flightways Columbus, Skyline Columbus, and Waffle House — supported the program by donating space, time, expertise, goods, and services, Kelly said.
“EAA embodies the spirit of aviation, and our chapter’s Young Eagles events demonstrate that spirit in a very real way,” Kelly concluded. “It is our hope children who flew with us might go on to pursue aviation as a career or hobby.”
The Chattahoochee Valley Chapter 677 is one of more than 1,000 local chapters of EAA. EAA 677 is a not-for-profit membership organization whose major activities include the monthly Young Eagles Rallies, annual support for the Thunder in the Valley Air Show, introducing adults to flying on International Learn To Fly Day, and participating in the major national EAA events: Sun ’n Fun and AirVenture. For more information: 677.EAAChapter.org or email EAAChapter677@gmail.com.