OSHKOSH, Wisconsin – A passion for aviation runs deep for Joe Coraggio, this year’s recipient of the Phillips 66 Aviation Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Young Eagles Leadership Award.
The award, which is presented each year at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, recognizes outstanding Young Eagles volunteers who have supported the future of aviation by going above and beyond the basic Young Eagles flight.
Joe, a second generation Young Eagle, has been active in the Young Eagles program for more than 20 years. His love of aviation began well before he could fly an airplane — or even drive a car — and he credits the Young Eagles program for much of the success in his aviation career.
“I am humbled to receive this award,” said Coraggio. “I know some of the past recipients, and they’re incredible pilots that have given back in such a big way. I’m blown away to now be among their ranks.”
For more than 25 years, Phillips 66 Aviation has sponsored the EAA Young Eagles, an organization whose sole mission is to introduce kids to the world of aviation by providing them their first ride in an airplane for free.
More than 2 million children have flown through the EAA Young Eagles program with the help of EAA’s network of volunteer pilots and ground volunteers, like Joe.
“Joe was chosen to receive the award not only because of his Young Eagle volunteer efforts, but because of the impact he’s helping make in the aviation community – both on the ground and in the air,” said Eric McMurphy, director of sales, general aviation, U.S. for Phillips 66 Aviation. “We’re delighted to honor him.”
Navigating on the Ground
Since earning his pilot’s license 17 years ago, Joe has flown more than 80 Young Eagles flights, but his involvement with the organization began long before he could fly, as a ground volunteer.
Today, he spends a lot of time mentoring aspiring aviation professionals. Whether it’s teaching them, helping them earn scholarships, or guiding them through airline career options, Joe helps kids pursue their love of aviation. He’s currently working with three young mentees.
Joe is also vice chairman of the AirVenture Cup, a cross-country air race held for more than 20 years the weekend before AirVenture begins. During the race festivities, Young Eagles flights are available.
According to Joe, one of the key benefits of participating in and leading the AirVenture Cup is to be able to support the Young Eagles program, raising awareness of it among the hundreds of pilots who participate in the Cup.
Joe is the epitome of a Young Eagles success story, according to Phillips 66 Aviation officials.
After being introduced to the world of aviation at the age of 12, he quickly discovered the Young Eagles program and was connected with family friend Eric Whyte, who received the EAA Young Eagles Leadership Award last year.
Eric gave Joe his first official Young Eagles ride in 1995, and after attending an aviation day camp at Capitol Drive Airport in Brookfield, Joe’s hometown, he’s been hooked.
The local EAA chapters took Joe under their wing and encouraged his passion for flying. On his 16th birthday, Joe completed his first solo flight before heading to the DMV to get his driver’s license. And on his 17th birthday, he earned his pilot’s license.
Joe now lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and works as a pilot for a major airline.
One of his greatest accomplishments is the aircraft he took nearly eight years to build, his Long-EZ, he notes.
Next to the rear seat of the plane is a sign that proudly states, “3rd Generation Young Eagles Fly Here.”
“This award – and the program itself – is a testament to all of the Young Eagles pilots out there because this program changes lives and changes the course of lives,” said Coraggio. “The program and the volunteer pilots make aviation accessible to everybody who has a dream and love of flying. The only prerequisites are the interest, hard work and determination. When I learned that, it was a license to set goals and dream big. Now I want to make sure others know that, too.”