*A version of this story originally appeared in The Budget’s March 15, 2017, Local Edition. Outdated information has been removed.
By Stacey Carmany
For more than 20 years, the New Philadelphia chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association, or EAA, has been sharing the joy of flight with the local community. Based at Harry Clever Field, EAA Chapter 1077 provides aviation-related educational programming and scholarship opportunities for area youths and hosts two annual summertime events designed to celebrate the history and spirit of flight.
For youth, the local chapter offers several programs geared toward fostering an appreciation of aviation – the Wright Flight and the Young Eagles programs.
Wright Flight is a 10-week program designed for area students in grades 6 through 9. “It’s an educational, motivational guidance course for kids,” said Terry Henry, membership chairman for the local EAA chapter. “They get to look at the world from a different perspective. It’s a life-changing experience, and it’s one that I’ve been told that kids never forget.”
During the program, participating students spend two hours each week for the first nine weeks learning about aviation and the inner workings of aircraft in a classroom setting. On the tenth week, they get an opportunity to go up in the air and fly alongside a licensed pilot.
“We take them out, and they get to fly our airplanes with a licensed pilot and get hands-on control of an airplane,” Henry explained. He noted that those rides usually last between 30 to 45 minutes.
The Young Eagles program allows children ages 8 to 17 to experience the thrill of flight during a short, ten-minute ride with a licensed pilot. “They can come in and ask one of us if we would be willing to take them on a free ride, and we will,” Henry said. “We volunteer our time and our aircraft and our money.”
Henry noted all pilots are required to take an online safety course and undergo a thorough background check by a national organization before they are permitted to fly with children.
The chapter also provides scholarships to local students interested in pursuing a career in an aviation-related field. Henry said the group has already given away scholarships to several students including a female from Dover who went on to become an air traffic controller at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and a male who is currently studying to become an aeronautical engineer. “We’ve chosen some really great folks for scholarships,” Henry said.
In addition to providing educational programs and scholarship opportunities for area students, Chapter 1077 also hosts safety seminars for pilots and aviation-related demonstrations.
The chapter hosts also two large community events at Harry Clever Field each summer on Labor Day and Memorial Day holiday weekends. In recent years, Henry said the organization has brought in several antique aircraft for those events including a 1929 Ford Trimotor, a Lockheed Electra 12A like the one flown by Amelia Earhart and a Douglas DC3 that once ferried passengers for Braniff Airways. “It’s an opportunity for us to share aviation, but it’s also an educational value for people that would never get to see an airplane like that in person and also a chance to actually fly in one,” Henry said.
During its summertime holiday events, the local chapter also hosts a Sunday pancake breakfast fundraiser inside its hangar to support its programs and activities. “Those are big fundraisers for us,” Henry explained. “We will serve between 400 and 700 people between 7:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. I don’t know any restaurant in the county that can match that.”