By TED LUEBBERS
When scheduling a Young Eagles event, Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) chapter officials are at the mercy of the weather.
That’s what officials with EAA Chapter 534 in Leesburg, Florida, discovered at their Nov. 16, 2019, event. It was a very cloudy and cool day in usually sunny Florida.
And while there was a group of excited kids waiting to become Young Eagles at the Leesburg International Airport (KLEE), where the chapter is based, it didn’t look like the flights would happen.
Included in this group of young people were Boy Scouts from St. Petersburg, Florida, who were working on their aviation merit badge. They needed a flight and a visit to a tower to qualify.
But at 9 a.m., the scheduled start time for flights, KLEE had a cloud level down to 1,300′, providing marginal VFR.
The EAA chapter had two fixed wing aircraft, with their volunteer pilots, sitting on the ramp ready for the Young Eagles. Other pilots who planned to volunteer that day could not fly into the field because of the weather.
It looked like the flights were a no-go, with chapter officials preparing to disappoint all the children gathered for their pre-flight orientation.
In fact, Joel Hargis, president of EAA Chapter 534, was about to cancel the event because the ceiling was so low and he wanted to err on the side of safety.
That’s when Hans-Gunter Vosseler, one of the chapter’s active Young Eagle pilots, stepped in and saved the day with his turbine-powered Eurocopter. Hans had enough room under the overcast to fly his helicopter and not disappoint the Young Eagles. He saved the day!
Over the last five years, Hans has flown more than 120 Young Eagles. His large helicopter will easily accommodate five passengers per flight.
On this cloudy day, with Hans’ help, the chapter flew 18 Young Eagles and two adult Eagle flights.
Hargis also arranged to have all the kids tour the control tower at the Leesburg Airport to learn more about the job of the air traffic controllers. The Young Eagles flights and the tower tour satisfied what the Boy Scouts needed to qualify for their Aviation Merit Badge.