In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the EAA Young Eagles program in 2017, we’re featuring 25 Young Eagles whose stories inspire and exemplify the impact of the program.
For teenagers across the United States, turning 16 means crossing a major milestone: getting a driver’s license. But 19-year-old Laura Joy Erb said she had to pass another milestone before she could get behind the wheel alone.
“It was kinda a family rule that I had to solo in an airplane before I could get my driver’s license,” she said. “I thought my dad was joking but he definitely wasn’t.”
Laura Joy’s father, Wes, is a professional pilot and an active Young Eagles pilot and was instrumental in encouraging her to get involved in aviation and the Young Eagles program. Laura Joy is now a private pilot having passed her checkride shortly after her 17th birthday.
“If I hadn’t been interested in flying my dad never would have made me do it but I love flying,” Laura Joy said. “I live and breathe flying, always have. It was just kind of the next logical step I guess.”
While Laura Joy has a family history in aviation, she’s a fourth-generation pilot, she said Young Eagles was a great help in her journey to becoming a pilot.
“Even as somebody that had a strong aviation background and the support from my dad, it was absolutely instrumental. I mean, having the ability to have those Sporty’s lessons and really know your stuff was super helpful.”
Laura Joy said she took advantage of the Sporty’s online ground school courses offered through the Young Eagles program, which gave her a boost of self-assurance.
“Having those videos and being able to study them and really know my stuff helped a lot with … the confidence,” she said. “It kind of makes you believe hey I could do this I can fly, which I think is kind of a … big burden sometimes because when you’re looking to try to enter this field.”
For many young people, walking into an airport filled with seasoned pilots can be intimidating and Laura Joy said Young Eagles is a great first step to overcome the fear.
“When you’re sitting there as a 17-year-old, it’s really daunting to say oh yeah, I’m gonna go fly a plane. It’s scary,” she said. “There’s a lot of things you need to know and there’s a lot of information you feel like you don’t have … and Young Eagles is amazing in that it gives you the confidence to say you know what you’re doing. I think it’s one of the most incredible programs I’ve heard of in the aviation field for sure.”
Laura Joy hasn’t followed in her father’s footsteps as a Young Eagles pilot yet, but said she’s interested in getting involved in the future. In the meantime, she said she loves sharing her personal story and encourages others to get a ride.
“To any of my friends who are like “Oh, how’d you learn to fly a plane?” and I’m like let me tell you right now, go take a Young Ealges flight,” she said. “I just really don’t have the words to describe how incredible I think this program is and I think it really is helping a lot of young people get into the industry.”
If you or someone you know has a Young Eagles story to share, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also share your Young Eagles photos or video with us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #YoungEagles25.