COMMENTARY / GUEST EDITORIAL
Sharing our passion to grow the aviation community
MY DREAM OF FLYING became a reality later in my life, as it does
for many of us. I credit it with reinventing my life. Through flying
I found a passion outside my work and discovered a marvelous
balance of freedom and responsibility.
I’ve become very involved in aviation over the past 15 years.
One of the most significant things that I’ve experienced was the
six years I served as chairman of EAA’s Young Eagles program.
I vividly remember when I was asked to succeed Gen. Chuck
Yeager in 2004. It was extremely daunting to think that I would
be following in the footsteps of leaders such as Cliff Robertson
and Gen. Yeager. But I quickly understood how important the
Young Eagles mission was, as we introduce young people to the
freedom of flight and aviation’s rich legacy.
Of course, the true heroes of the program are the more than
43,000 volunteer pilots who have flown Young Eagles during the past
18 years, as well as the tens of thousands of ground volunteers who
help make it happen. What each of you has accomplished is awesome.
Your dedicated efforts have created the largest youth aviation
outreach program in history. I continue to stand in awe of, and
respect, your dedication and commitment to
our young people and to aviation.
It’s interesting to see the reactions of
the Young Eagles I’ve flown. Some are
wide-eyed with excitement; others are
more reserved at first. Their sense of
wonder, however, never wavers. When
I fly my helicopter in the Tetons, I have
the opportunity to share a unique view
of the peaks, canyons, and forests that
many have seen only from the ground.
The de Havilland Beaver offers a different
experience for Young Eagles—and a bit
of aviation history. Each of the flights has
been unforgettable and a terrific pleasure.
While I passed the chairmanship baton
to Sully Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles last
fall, I remain committed to Young Eagles
and to general aviation. Sully and Jeff bring
even more depth to Young Eagles through
their experience, professionalism, and
Something else I discovered when flying
Young Eagles is the opportunity to connect
with parents. The new International Learn
to Fly Day is a wonderful, complementary
program for adults to discover the same
possibilities that we’ve introduced in Young
Eagles for nearly two decades. Our ongoing
goal is to welcome more pilots into our world.
Aviation has brought many technological
advances to society. It has encouraged
discovery and innovation. It inspires
study in math, science, and other fields
of scholarship. More importantly, I truly
believe that aviation creates good citizens.
Pilots establish a sense of responsibility
within themselves, so they can properly
fulfill and protect the unique freedom we
have in flying.
This is where I now see a role I can
play—helping the public understand how
general aviation serves society. There are
many challenges to aviation today that
threaten to divide and limit this unique
freedom. We need to be unified and speak
with one voice about the importance of
Each time I make the pilgrimage to
Oshkosh, I am inspired and reinvigorated
by EAA members who are dedicated to the
legacy and future of aviation, and also by
the passion of all aviators. Let’s make sure
others have the same opportunities for these