About 5,000 EAA Young Eagles have enrolled in the Next Step program and are pursuing an interest in aviation beyond a first flight, according to officials with EAA and Sporty’s.
Through the Next Step program, young people flown through the EAA Young Eagles program now have a clear pathway to participation in aviation, from a first airplane ride with volunteer EAA pilots, continuing all the way to a pilot’s license, according to EAA officials. The cornerstone of this program is free access to Sporty’s Complete Flight Training Course online. To date, Sporty’s has donated courses that have a retail value of more than $1 million.
“Sporty’s Pilot Shop understands the EAA Young Eagles is an essential first step toward growing aviation through participation, but the aviation community must work together to ensure the next steps are also available,” said Rod Hightower, EAA president and CEO. “Sporty’s has been a leader that makes it possible for young people to discover their own passion for flight, and their leadership is also encouraging other aviation entities to help EAA build aviation’s future.”
This program’s early success has sparked additional enhancements and benefits, including a first flight lesson. Young Eagles who complete part one of the Sporty’s course are eligible to take a free flight lesson at a local flight school of their choice. This gives Young Eagles the opportunity to sit in the left seat and receive 30-45 minutes of flight instruction. Numerous scholarships are available to support continued flight training.
“When we launched Next Step, Sporty’s and EAA had a vision of moving Young Eagles from the right seat to the left seat, and we’ve begun to see results,” said Sporty’s Founder/Chairman Hal Shevers said. “Sporty’s has seen that thousands of young people who began with Young Eagles flights are now enrolled in the Sporty’s online course, and we’re beginning to see pilots come from the program — exactly what we want to see happen.”
A growing number of new young pilots have been directly traced to the Next Step program. One example is Tyler Stargardt of Marshfield, Wisconsin, who passed his FAA checkride on June 4, at the Marshfield Municipal Airport. Through his involvement with EAA Chapter 992, Tyler applied for the EAA Young Eagles Flight Training Scholarship. As one of the recipients, he received $7,500 to help pay for his flight lessons. Since earning his Private Pilot certificate, Tyler will also be “paying it forward,” as he plans to soon give EAA Young Eagles flights and introduce more young people to aviation.