By Randy Epstein, EAA 833410
EAA Chapter 690 started a ground school program in March of 2015, but we wanted to go beyond that. That September, we were offered the opportunity to use a hangar that would allow us to begin our youth build program. Along the way we also picked up an ultralight Pietenpol project for our youth to work on. The goal was to help youth get involved in aviation and give them an opportunity to earn flight training. We made a deal with a local flying club, AeroVenture, for a Cessna 150 rental and a commitment by their CFIs to provide some free instruction. The program took off and we had a good regular group attending and making great progress on the Pietenpol while learning new skills.
Fast forward to 2016, and a young man named Jeremy Welch contacted me about our program and how it worked. On May 7, Jeremy joined us for the first time at one of our sessions. As time went on, we had more conversations about the requirements for solo and for completing his private certificate, and he spoke of mowing lawns and such to earn money for his training.
As we moved into 2017, Jeremy got in touch with John Post of AeroVenture and began his flight training. Through the chapter, Jeremy had earned eight hours of flying time and through his hard work had earned additional money to continue past that point. He set a goal to solo on his 16th birthday on March 30. He was on track and came out to fly on that Thursday, but, as all pilots sometimes do, had a bad day and did not get signed off.
Saturday, April 1 our chapter was holding a pancake breakfast and as early arrivals began to show up we noticed John and one of his club members standing just outside the hangar with a handheld radio. John and Jeremy had flown that morning and John signed him off to solo. A group of us gathered and watched with anticipation as the 150 took off and headed around the pattern. We’ve all been there and can remember that feeling of lifting off and still hearing your CFI giving reminders in your ear all the way around the pattern and that feeling of how quickly the airplane climbs without the extra ballast. Soon we could see the 150 on final for the runway and watched it touch down and then lift off again for trip number two, followed by trip number three. We were all very excited: Our first youth member had soloed.
We decided to hold the shirt cutting ceremony as a part of the pancake breakfast that morning and share it with our membership. We have framed the shirttail and it will hang proudly in our youth build hangar for all to see and dream about their opportunity to have their shirttail hang alongside it. As you might imagine, Jeremy’s next goal is taking his checkride on his 17th birthday. I’m looking forward to next March 30.