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.
“As soon as the aircraft took off, I knew that was what I wanted to do going forward and kind of fell in love with aviation right there,” Ben Bushnell said of his Young Eagles ride in 2010.
Ben, who is now a commercial pilot with a multiengine rating, said that although no one in his family is involved in aviation, he always had an interest in things that fly.
“I had been involved in model airplanes and even before that … looking all the way back to Harry Potter and thinking about gliding around over the trees,” he said.
Ben flew remote-control airplanes at a local field and it was there that he got his first piece of encouragement to enter the world of full-scale flight.
“There was an old bunch of guys that were all sitting down [on the field] in their late 70s and early 80s who’d been doing this since the hobby was born way back in the day,” he said. “They could kind of see my curiosity in the sport and they could see what I was interested in and they said, you know you should really go stop by the airport sometime. I think for me that was my pass.”
With that encouragement, Ben went to an aviation day event at Lebanon Municipal Airport in Lebanon, New Hampshire, where there happened to be a group of EAA members giving Young Eagles rides.
“I thought that was pretty cool. I was probably a freshman or so … and had never been up in a general aviation airplane at all,” Ben said.
Ben’s Young Eagles pilot was Jack Buffington who himself was new to the program.
“I went back the day of my commercial checkride, which was last February, and I sent him an e-mail and said I want to thank you for igniting the spark,” Ben said. “He actually [replied] to me afterward and said that was his first Young Eagles flight he’d ever done. He was trying to spread that passion and even on his first flight he was able to do it.”
Inspiring others is the reason Young Eagles is important, Ben said.
“It shows that adults have passion as well and that everyone can enjoy a certain special, extremely magical process that is flight and it’s super important to show the young people something that they may not normally be exposed to in their everyday life,” he said. “You guys helped me find my passion.”
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.