EAA AVIATION CENTER, OSHKOSH, Wis. - (Jan. 13, 2009) - Following an extremely active and noteworthy 2009, EAA's Young Eagles program is in an outstanding position to introduce thousands more young people to the world of flight this year. Young Eagles, introduced in July 1992, has already flown more than 1.5 million young people at no charge, making it the largest youth aviation education program in history.
Nearly 80,000 Young Eagles were flown in 2009, a four percent increase over the 2008 total despite soft economic conditions. In addition, 1,256 EAA-member volunteer pilots flew Young Eagles for the first time, putting the total number of participating pilots at more than 43,000 since the program's inception.
"What Young Eagles has done since 1992 is nothing short of remarkable, and has become an essential part of the aviation community's effort to bring new people into aviation," said Tom Poberezny, EAA chairman/president. "Each one of us in aviation must continue to ask ourselves, 'What am I doing to encourage growth in the aviation community?' The thousands of Young Eagles volunteers in the cockpit and on the ground are already answering the question with their participation."
Among 2009's Young Eagles highlights that have built momentum for a bright 2010 include:
* US Airways Flight 1549 cockpit crew Sully Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles were introduced as the program's new co-chairmen, succeeding actor Harrison Ford. Sullenberger and Skiles have already been actively involved in Young Eagles activities since their introduction in late September;
* ConocoPhillips continued more than 15 years of Young Eagles support with its popular aviation fuel rebate program, doubling the rebate to two dollars per gallon for much of 2009;
* Sporty's Pilot Shop unveiled a viable "next step" program for Young Eagles, as the famed aviation store offered free access to its online Complete Pilot Training Course and a Young Eagles logbook to every Young Eagle flown. More than 2,000 young people have already enrolled in the online course;
* Sporty's enhanced its support by endowing an EAA staff position dedicated to aviation opportunities for young people. EAA's new youth programs manager, Brian O'Lena - a longtime EAA member and Young Eagles pilot - began his role in November;
* The Young Eagles Pilot Credit Program continued to award EAA Air Academy scholarships for young people interested in pursuing their aviation interests, with additional fundraising allowing a five-dollar credit for each Young Eagle flown. In addition to supporting Air Academy attendees, the credits were also available to EAA Chapters to help enhance and promote their local youth outreach activities.
* More than 86,000 people subscribe to the monthly Young Eagles e-newsletter, a total that increased by nearly one-third in 2009;
* Reno Elliott, a 16-year-old from Carmichael, Calif., became Young Eagle No. 1,500,000 on October 3, 2009, when he was flown by Phil Haupt of Roseville, Calif.
The aviation industry unified in its support of Young Eagles and EAA's other education programs during the annual "Gathering of Eagles" fundraiser during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2009, raising $1.8 million to support the programs that will provide the next generation of aviation consumers.
"Young people remain fascinated by flight and are eager to explore the sky through Young Eagles," said Steve Buss, Young Eagles executive director. "The number of pilots who credit their aviation inspiration to a Young Eagles flight is growing each year, and that's a credit to each of the volunteers who make it happen. We are looking forward to building on the success of 2009 and encourage all EAA member pilots to continue to seek out young people who may be interested in this unique program."
While Young Eagles are flown everyday throughout the year, EAA's International Young Eagles Day, the annual date specifically dedicated to flying Young Eagles, will this year be held on Saturday, June 12.
EAA embodies the spirit of aviation through the world's most engaged community of aviation enthusiasts. EAA's 160,000 members and 1,000 local chapters enjoy the fun and camaraderie of sharing their passion for flying, building and restoring recreational aircraft. For more information on EAA and its programs, call 800-JOIN-EAA (800-564-6322) or go to www.eaa.org.