By Bill Castlen, EAA 183796
For the past seven years, EAA Chapter 1358, The Wiregrass Chapter, has made the Young Eagles program our main focus of chapter activity. We hosted EAA’s B-17, Aluminum Overcast, and Ford Tri-Motor on several occasions to raise money to purchase a Redbird TD2 flight simulator for Young Eagles’ use. This year, we stepped it up a notch when we established the Dave Miller (a former high-energy chapter president) Memorial Scholarship to send especially qualified Young Eagles to Auburn University’s five-day Aviation Camp. Halle Poole of Shorterville, Alabama, was our first recipient and attended the camp June 25-30.
Halle’s adventure began when she, along with thousands of other high school students, attended an annual career experience event near Dothan, Alabama, called Wiregrass WORKS. This event draws interested youngsters from 16 surrounding counties, including some in Georgia and Florida. The youngsters are exposed to eight career areas including aviation/aerospace. Chapter 1358 has had a booth at this event for two years and as a result we have given many high school students their Young Eagles flight.
Halle attended the Wiregrass WORKS event this year and talked at length with chapter Young Eagles Coordinator Cecil High. She learned when and where our next rally was going to be held and was there. I happened to be her pilot and while we were walking to the plane, she declared, “I want to be a commercial pilot and NASA astronaut!” The serious manner with which she said this and the conversations she had with other chapter members demonstrated a maturity beyond her years and left us with no doubt that this 14-year-old was truly focused on a career in aviation.
The Auburn University Aviation Camp was a big plus for Halle and two dozen other teens in their quest to learn more about aviation careers. Among other things, they took a day-trip to Atlanta and visited Delta’s huge maintenance facility and corporate headquarters at KATL and also a large general aviation flight department at Fulton County airport (FTY). On the way back to Auburn, they stopped and got a tour of the Atlanta Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC). One of the big highlights for Halle was flying at the controls of one of Auburn’s Cessnas around the traffic pattern at the Auburn flight school.
This has been such a rewarding experience for Chapter 1358 that we encourage other EAA chapters to explore developing a relationship with Auburn’s Aviation Camp which seems uniquely suited to move youngsters through an exploratory camp into a degreed program leading to careers in aviation. Chapters or individuals wanting more information about the Auburn University Aviation Camp may visit their website, or e-mail Dr. James Birdsong or call him at 334-844-4911or contact Chapter 1358 President Ray Carney, 205-540-6419.