By Owen Leipelt, EAA 1102131, EAA Chapter 62 Vice President
December 1, 2016 – In 2013, when I was 13 years old, I took my first Young Eagles flight with pilot Tom Hail, Young Eagles coordinator at the Watsonville Airport (EAA Chapter 119, Watsonville, California) in a Cessna 172. I was hooked.
I can say without a doubt it was the most life-changing 30 minutes of my life. I knew then and there that flying was what I wanted to do when I grew up.
I did my research and began saving cash doing odd jobs around the neighborhood. By the time I was 15 I had saved enough money and was finally old enough to begin my flight training. I was ecstatic.
My first flight lesson took place on May 21, 2015, and I soloed less than a month later on my 16th birthday with nine hours of flight time.
Just over a year later; I passed my private pilot check ride on May 2, 2016 with 60 hours of flight time.
This fall I returned to Watsonville for the first time since my Young Eagles flight, this time not as a Young Eagle, but as a pilot. I flew eight kids that day and had a blast.
It was an amazing feeling to give back and inspire the next generation of aviators, and I look forward to continuing to spread the joys of flying to others.