For 25 years Young Eagles have taken to the skies in what may be the one singular experience that sparks a career or a hobby dedicated to flight.
The Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles program was launched in 1992 to give interested young people an opportunity to go flying in a general aviation airplane. These flights are offered free of charge and are made possible through the generosity of EAA member volunteers.
On Saturday, April 22, a group of EAA members from Salt Lake City ventured down to Mesquite to offer this exciting experience to Mesquite children as they have for several years thanks to the local efforts of Larry LeMieux, who brought the program to town.
The program is a hit with the kids and parents will come from near and far to give their children the chance for this opportunity.
Coming from a distance was the case for Hailey and Mason Rea. Both siblings have flown in helicopters; dad is a paramedic who works for American Medical Response in Las Vegas.
Each one has flown in a helicopter but only Hailey enjoyed the experience. Mason said, “They leave the doors off, are you kidding me, that’s scary. I didn’t enjoy that at all.” Little sister had a different experience and wants to be a helicopter pilot when she grows up. Mom even provided her a jump suit like the pilots wear for her birthday this past February.
Hailey has flown in the helicopter twice, once was good enough for big brother. The siblings’ dad wanted to give them a different experience and set out to find a way to get them on an airplane. Commercial flights were a little hard to justify paying for and private flights were no better but dad didn’t back down; he kept up his research until it brought him and his family to Mesquite.
Both siblings enjoyed the airplane ride immensely, it changed Mason’s mind about flight, the airplane pilots keep the doors closed, but not Hailey’s. She enjoyed her experience in the experimental airplane but still wants to be a helicopter pilot.
Kaylee Sonnenberg, a local resident, has flown with the Young Eagles once before and this year brought her two younger sisters Abby and Olivia with her to join in on the experience while little brother Brady watched from the sidelines and still has a few more years to wait; the program is for children 8-17.
Mesquite and St. George car club members and the Mesquite High Rollers Motorcycle clubs were out in force to show off some beautiful machines; some with two wheels, some with four. Mercy Air had the helicopter out for the kids to look at but not to fly; Hailey was a bit disappointed by that was okay with big brother Mason who didn’t want to have anything to do with the helicopter. Beaver Dam Fire Department was also there with their trucks and ready to demonstrate, answer questions and give tours to the kids while they waited for their turn to soar.
The winds got a bit blustery and some of the smaller planes were grounded but the group already planned for the possibilities after they were completely grounded in 2014 because of the weather. The one thing the Young Eagles and the EAA preach and live is safety first and they didn’t want to disappoint the kids so this year, they brought bigger planes.
Since 1992, more than 1.6 million Young Eagles have enjoyed a flight through the National program and all the participating chapters. Young Eagles have been registered in more than 90 different countries and have been flown by more than 42,000 volunteer pilots.
The Young Eagle flight is the first step in a five step program: Young Eagle Flight, EAA student membership, Sporty’s Learn-to-Fly online course, First Flight Lesson and finally, scholarships for continued education. The Young Eagle program is your path from first flight to licensed pilot and soaring just like young eagles do.