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.
Minjae Kim, EAA 1076117, has been “obsessed” with aviation since he was in third grade and said he still remembers his first ever ride in an airplane, a commercial flight, when he was 10 years old.
“I still remember the exact date and the feelings from my first flight. It was on May 16, 2007,” he said. “The moment the plane took off, I fell in love with flying and thought it was what I want to do with rest of my life. I recall seeing the beautiful scenery outside of the window and the joy of flying.”
Since then, Minjae, who grew up in South Korea, has dreamed of becoming an airline pilot and he realized at a young age that learning to speak English would be a crucial aspect of achieving that dream.
“In fifth grade, I decided to go to America to study English as an exchange student,” he said. “My parents saw my deep passion towards aviation and decided to send me to the U.S. as an exchange student. … When I was studying in America, literally everyone knew that I wanted to become a pilot because they always saw me talking about planes or drawing it.”
While he was an exchange student, Minjae’s host father was an air traffic controller and helped him get involved in Young Eagles in 2008.
“The moment I heard about Young Eagles flying opportunity, I was full of excitement,” Minjae said. “I remember the new sensation that I had flying in a general aviation aircraft. I felt so thankful to the pilot who gave me the flight experience.”
Minjae is now a student pilot and soloed in February. He’s also studying aviation science at Utah Valley University and has hopes of becoming an airline pilot.
“My goal is not just to become an airline pilot, but to contribute to the future of aviation,” he said. “I would like to show my affection towards aviation by giving a free airplane ride to young children just like what Young Eagles have done for me. By giving them flight experience, I will be able to share my passion and help create a pathway for children to get involved in aviation.”
Minjae overcame a number of obstacles to follow his dreams and said that’s the best advice he can give to other aspiring pilots.
“I didn’t think I was ever going to fly since I didn’t have enough money to get my flight training,” he said. “But I thought that if I didn’t get to fly, I would regret for rest of my life.”
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.