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.
Airline copilot Julie Savage grew up riding her bike to nearby Chicago Midway International Airport where she and her father, an airline mechanic, would watch the airplanes. Then, when she was 7 years old, a flight to Florida inspired her to pursue a career in aviation.
“We had some bad weather and we had to pull to the side and the captain shut down the engine and asked if anybody wants to come up front and see the cockpit,” she said. “So that’s what I did. It was a 727 and I just remember him lifting that seat up so I could see out and it was just amazing and I told myself this is what I want to do with the rest of my life.”
As a teenager, Julie continued to pursue that dream going to a local general aviation airport with her father to learn more about the world of flight. She soon connected with Jay and Abbie Friddel and in 1995 Abbie gave Julie her first Young Eagles ride in the couple’s Piper Cherokee. Last year, Julie’s son, Matthew, got his Young Eagles ride in the same airplane.
“It’s kind of come full circle and my son seems to be even more enthusiastic about flying than I was at his age which is kind of hard for me to believe,” Julie said.
Jay and Abbie were members of EAA Chapter 790 and encouraged Julie to join the chapter where she found a wealth of encouragement.
“They just kind of took me under their wing and they mentored me,” she said. “Walking into Chapter 790 was like hitting the lottery for a kid. Most all of them were older … but they were so enthusiastic to see me. I was one of the only young ones in that group and of course I loved being around them. They actually ended up making me a board member of chapter 790. I was just a teenager so it was huge—it just meant the world to me.”
Julie got her private certificate at 17 and after high school attended Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s flight program and was a member of the flight team competing in regional and national contests against the best young pilots in the country. During her time on the team, Julie was named top female pilot regionally and nationally, which helped her win two internships with United Airlines and American Airlines, and gained her recognition from EAA.
“When I took top female pilot I got a call from Oshkosh from Tom Poberezny himself inviting me to be on the national board for EAA,” she said. “I got to go up and be on the board there. I was the youngest one on the board by far. Again, such an honor. I got to help out with all the kids programs because that’s my passion since I was a Young Eagle.”
Julie said she hasn’t yet had the opportunity to fly Young Eagles but she and her husband are hoping to buy into a share on an airplane in the next few years, which will allow her to give back to the program.
“As soon as I started flying for the airlines I was moving all over the place,” she said. “I lived in Puerto Rico for some time and then I came back to Chicago, but then 9/11 happened so I had to move to New York and then I had to move to Denver and I have just been all over the place. It’s one of those things that once I get an airplane I’ll look forward to doing.”
In the meantime, Julie said she frequently speaks to classrooms about the world of aviation and strongly encourages young people who are interested to get involved in EAA and Young Eagles.
“Aviation is a really special thing to go into,” she said. “There’s a variety of ways to go into it. There’s a variety of things you can do once you’re inside of that aviation circle and for the average kid to sort that all out is nearly impossible. For me in particular, I wanted to be an airline pilot. So it was real easy when I walked into that chapter to find those airline guys and just say if you were me, how would you get there? What would you change if you could have done things differently? What do you suggest I do to be the best pilot I can be?”
Now that she’s “living her dream” flying Boeing 777s for United and is in the position of mentoring others, Julie said her best advice for kids is to follow their passion and give it their all.
“Get involved. Get those mentors and listen to them don’t just sit there and take their advice, really listen and apply it because there’s always somebody that has something to contribute to your full aviation circle,” she said.
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.