Whyte’s holds the distinction of being the first individual to transition from Young Eagle to Young Eagles volunteer pilot. He took his first Young Eagles flight on Aug. 5, 1992, and has been active in multiple capacities with the EAA for the past 25 years. To date he’s flown nearly 600 Young Eagles.“You can tell when you have an impact on a kid participating in the Young Eagles program,” said Whyte. “One flight in particular comes to mind. There was a child who was on the autism spectrum. He wanted to fly, but he was hesitant. We taxied around until he felt comfortable enough to go up. Once we were in the air he had a ball. When we landed I noticed his mom, who had been sitting in the backseat, was in tears. She said she had never seen her son so engaged. There are many very cool moments in the Young Eagles program, and that was just one of them.”
For the past 24 years Phillips 66 Aviation has sponsored the Young Eagles, an organization whose sole mission is to introduce kids to aviation by providing their first free ride in a general aviation aircraft. Last year, at AirVenture 2016, the program announced the flight of its 2 millionth Young Eagle. To date, more than 2.3 million children have flown through the EAA Young Eagles program at events held throughout the country.
“I’m proud to recognize Eric as this year’s EAA Young Eagles Leadership Award Winner for his unwavering dedication to the Young Eagles program,” said Eric McMurphy, Director of Sales, General Aviation, U.S. “On behalf of Phillips 66 Aviation, I sincerely congratulate him for all that he’s contributed to the EAA Young Eagles and to the future of aviation.”
Location, Location, Location
Growing up in close proximity to Oshkosh, in Brookfield, Wisconsin, Whyte attended AirVenture annually with his father, a teacher by trade who belonged to the local flying club and volunteered at the yearly aviation event. This year marked Whyte’s 35th year as a volunteer at Oshkosh.
“At seven years old I was able to start ‘volunteering’ at AirVenture, stacking chairs for VIP events and other small tasks,” reminisced Whyte. “Paul Poberezny, EAA’s founder, watched me stacking chairs and said ‘it looks like you’re doing something very important here,’ then he took off a pin from his cap and gave it to me. That really resonated with me. It made a big impression. In fact, just being at AirVenture was inspiring. That’s really why I’ve been so involved with the Young Eagles program. As I got older I realized how fortunate I was to be able to attend AirVenture, so I’m always trying to get more kids involved with the program to expose them to aviation like I was.”
Giving Back for the Greater Good
In January 2010, following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Whyte volunteered through AERObridge to be a dispatcher and coordinate all civilian relief flights in and out of Port Au Prince. Working 20 hour days, seven days a week for approximately four weeks, Whyte and his team operated 715 flights, delivering 1.4 million pounds of supplies to Haiti and evacuated 3,800 passengers, all using general aviation aircraft.
Today he serves as the Vice President of Aviation Community Relations for AERObridge, an organization dedicated to assisting in times of catastrophic emergency by coordinating donated aircraft to provide a powerful, immediate response to disaster.
Additional noteworthy aviation accomplishments include founding the AirVenture Cup Cross-Country Air Race. The race is held annually on the opening weekend of the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh fly-in and convention in late July, and most participants fly into Oshkosh at the race’s conclusion. This year marked the race’s 20th anniversary.
As a pilot, Whyte has logged nearly 10,000 hours in 127 different makes and models of homebuilds, antiques, warbirds, turboprops and jets. He has been a Certified Flight Instructor for more than 20 years. He is presently employed at One Aviation as a Demonstration and Instructor Pilot in the Eclipse jet.
When he is not working, he flies as a volunteer pilot in the EAA Ford Tri-motor, and the Collings Foundation’s B-24 Liberator and B-25 Mitchell.
“To date, one of my Young Eagles is volunteering for the Young Eagles program, making him the third-generation,” said Whyte. “We’ve flown several Young Eagles events together. It’s pretty cool.”
Part of Phillips 66 Aviation’s commitment to the Young Eagles program is to offer Young Eagle pilots a $1 rebate on every gallon of fuel they use for Young Eagle flights.