U.S. Airways Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles, known for their expert handling of their airliner’s emergency landing in the Hudson River in January, have been named co-chairmen of the EAA Young Eagles Program.
Actor and pilot Harrison Ford passed the baton to the new co-chairman late last month after having served for five years as the chairman of the program, which uses aviation to inspire and educate youth.
“Harrison and I were delighted when Sully and Jeff agreed to co-chair the program,” said Tom Poberezny, EAA chairman and president, who launched the Young Eagles in 1992. “They were ideal candidates not only because of the skill they demonstrated on that fateful day in January but also — and perhaps more significantly — because of the leadership they’ve shown since that time. They’ve been excellent ambassadors on behalf of aviation.”
Ford agreed, saying: “For five years as the program chair, I’ve stressed the program’s message of earned reward, showing young people that, by disciplining and applying themselves, they can earn marvelous rewards, such as the freedom and thrill of flight. Now, Sully and Jeff will add an emphasis on the value of training, preparation, and teamwork. No one could bring more credibility in sharing these concepts with our youth.”
Sullenberger and Skiles accepted the offer to lead the program in discussions with Poberezny and Ford that took place during this year’s EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.
“After having the opportunity to learn more about the EAA Young Eagles Program while I was in Oshkosh, Jeff and I were inspired to get involved,” Sullenberger said. “Co-chairing the program is an opportunity that I welcome. Jeff and I are honored to take the stick from Harrison Ford, who has gracefully guided the program for the past five years.”
For Skiles, a rekindled enthusiasm for flight fueled his acceptance of the co-chair role.
“I’m grateful to EAA and the AirVenture Oshkosh convention for allowing me to fall in love with aviation for a second time in my life, “Skiles said. “I’m eager to share this passion with young people and encourage their participation in aviation.”
Now in its 17th year, Young Eagles has first-flight experiences to nearly 1.5 million kids, thanks to the volunteer efforts of 42,000 EAA member pilots and countless supporters around the globe.
In addition to Ford, previous EAA Young Eagles Program chairs were: Oscar-winning actor and avid pilot Cliff Robertson (1992-1993) and aviation legend Chuck Yeager (1994-2003).