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.
Mathieu Labs received his first flight at one year old from his grandfather. “It’s in my blood,” he said. “The earliest I remember was going to Oshkosh in 1990 camping under the wing. He’d wake up at 5 a.m. to go to the forums and pull me out of my sleeping bag to go with him.”
Three years after that first memory of Oshkosh, and one year after the founding of the Young Eagles program, Mathieu’s grandfather flew with him once again, this time as an official Young Eagles flight.
Today, Mathieu flies Young Eagles himself and has flown more than 100 since 2008.
“To see the kids take the flight controls is inspirational,” he said. Many of the kids he flies come from less fortunate backgrounds and often have never been in an airplane. “The first thing I ask is do you like roller coasters and probably most of them say yes. They like the g’s,” Mathieu said.
Mathieu said he’s had a number of repeat customers at Young Eagles rallies thanks in part to the humor he injects into the flights.
“One kid was coming every year and I wanted to send him to the Air Academy out of my own money. Once he was in the plane it was natural for him to fly,” he said. “Another kid, Ryan, his grandpa is part of the chapter. He’s another one that is a natural. He’s now the high school coordinator for Chapter 931 in Adam’s Friendship.”
Not every Young Eagle goes on to be as involved in aviation as Mathieu or Ryan, and Mathieu said he has a number of people to thank for instilling the passion for flight in him and supporting the Young Eagles program that has helped encourage that passion in others.
“I probably would not be in aviation if it weren’t for my grandpa,” he said. “If it wasn’t for Michelle [Kunes] or Scott Cameron I don’t think Young Eagles would be around. I give them all the kudos in the world.”
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 and Instagram using #YoungEagles25.