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June 15, 2010 > EAA Young Eagles program

EAA Young Eagles program

By Simon Wong
Photos By William Mancebo

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is an international membership organization of aviation enthusiasts. Founded in 1953 by veteran aviator Paul Poberezny, there are approximately 170,000 members organized through chapters in more than 100 countries, including the United States.

The early members flew planes that were modified or built by craftsmen instead of factory-assembled. The door or cockpit was required to display an EXPERIMENTAL placard, hence the name "Experimental Aircraft Association." Membership consists of all age groups, ranging from airline and commercial pilots, engineers to business people and even astronauts. Home-built airplanes are still part of EAA but the association now includes almost every facet of aviation and aeronautics.

EAA members generously volunteer their planes, time, skills, encouragement and support by taking young people, aged 8 to 17, on free flights through the EAA Young Eagles Program. The latter was established in 1992 since when more than 1.5 million Young Eagles in 90 countries have flown with more than 42,000 pilots.

The EAA's co-chairs are Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey B. Skiles, the pilots who saved the 150 passengers and five crew aboard US Airways Flight 1549/United Airlines Flight 1919 with an emergency landing in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009.

EAA Vintage Aircraft Chapter 29 invited Sullenberger, a Danville resident, to a Young Eagles Special Event on June 12, 2010, at Hayward Executive Airport. He had hoped to take 11-year old Adin Krebs-Oppenheimer from Berkley, 17-year old Dylan Murphy from Castro Valley and Hayward Air Rally Scholarship winner 14-year old Tom Kelbert from San Jose for a bird's eye view of Hayward and the surrounds in a Cessna 172.

Young Eagles must be no older than 17 years which, unfortunately, meant 18-year old Mt. Eden High School student Grace Feng could not fly. She is, however, the Hayward Air Rally's other scholarship winner and will attend the week-long EAA Air Academy (aviation summer camp) in Oshkosh in July. Strong winds and turbulence grounded the Young Eagles on June 12 but the flight will be rescheduled with Sullenberger at the controls.

"Jeff Skiles and I are honored to have been asked to become co-chairs of EAA. It's a privilege to be in a position to ignite passion about flight in young people," said Sullenberger. "The organization is important because we deal, literally, with the future of aviation. One day, Jeff and I will move on and it's up to the next generations of pilots to fly professionally and for recreation and to understand the history and contributions of flight. Past developments provide the context for the present which, in turn, is the context for the future. Flight, like other modes of rapid transportation and communication, has changed the world.

"My advice to any young person considering a flying career, commercially, with an airline, in the services or as a hobby, is to follow their passion. Be prepared to work hard and become an expert at what you do. If you do that, you will find a way to derive meaning and satisfaction from it," Sullenberger added.

"I recall seeing planes overhead as a 10-year old boy and wanted to fly but had no way of doing so even though my father was in the US Air Force. As an adult, I qualified for my pilot's license and have my own plane and enjoy sharing my good fortune with youngsters. In 2006, I volunteered for an event at which most of the Young Eagles were disabled or handicapped. This is how I became involved with EAA," explained Paul Buenrostro, a member of Hayward's EAA Vintage Aircraft Chapter 29 and Race 56 in the 2010 Hayward Air Rally.

Young Eagles Dylan Murphy and Adin Krebs-Oppenheimer both want to become airline pilots. Murphy has enjoyed the mentorship of EAA Vintage Aircraft Chapter 29's volunteer pilots for two years and is considering joining the US Coast Guard to learn to fly larger aircraft. Krebs-Oppenheimer, who has been a Young Eagle for three-and-a-half years, is considering a career in either the US Air Force or Navy to achieve his goal. EAA Vintage Aircraft Chapter 29 is sponsoring his attendance at the 2010 EAA Air Academy.

Most local airports have an EAA Young Eagles chapter which organizes free flights. To accommodate everyone, young people must sign-up for scheduled events in advance.

EAA Vintage Aircraft Chapter 29 celebrated its fifteenth anniversary on June 10 and hosts Young Eagle rallies on the last Saturday of each month, subject to weather and availability of pilots.

For general information about the EAA's Young Eagles Program, visit

To participate in EAA Vintage Aircraft Chapter 29's Young Eagle Rallies, visit to download a registration form.

For questions or more details, contact Pat Polehla, Young Eagles Coordinator, on (510) 703-1466 (cell) or (510) 792-1968 (office) or by email at

Young Eagles

Free plane rides for kids aged 8-17 are available through the EAA Young Eagles Program.

The nearest Young Eagles chapter is EAA Vintage Aircraft Chapter 29 at Hayward Executive Airport. The remaining schedule for 2010 is June 26, September 25, October 23 and December 4.

To participate in EAA Vintage Aircraft Chapter 29's Young Eagle Rallies, visit to download a registration form.

For questions or more details, contact Pat Polehla, Young Eagles Coordinator, on (510) 792-1968 (office) or (510) 703-1466 (cell) or by email at

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