ONTARIO — Forty thousand men and women worldwide have freely given their time and talents to share the thrills of aviation with young people through the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles Flight Program. Among those volunteers is Ontario Municipal Airport Manager Dan Beaubien.
“It’s not something you outgrow. It’s our happy place, too,” Beaubien said of flying. “You have to have so much focus and concentration. Flying is probably the most fun thing I’ve ever done. Nothing compares to just leaving the earth.”
Beaubien is working his first year as a certified volunteer for the Young Eagles helping Ontario High School senior Jaelen Grove prepare to earn her wings to fly. Beaubien had to qualify to be a volunteer pilot for the program.
“It’s all about safety with kids. You have to be a national member, take a test, and must have all qualifications of a pilot. Pilots need to be medically cleared by a doctor,” he said.
The Young Eagles is primarily a one-on-one mentor program, and Beaubien said he would like to see more local pilots get involved. When asked how he would mentor young students who had never flown, or had experience with flight Beaubien had the following to say:
“Before I ever tied my shoes, I couldn’t.”
Beaubien said of his volunteer effort, “We do it because we like kids, and want to help them out. We eat the money, eat the gas. I’ve been in EAA many years, flown a lot of kids, never got to count any of them. Now that I’m certified to fly Young Eagles, I can start counting those kids’ flights. I am trying to get more kids involved.”
Volunteers and employees are currently working to install a grass runway to make landing easier for students, and certain types of airplane landing wheels.
The Young Eagles is designed to give children between the ages of 8 to 17 a chance to experience flight in a general aviation airplane while educating them about aviation. The program is offered free of charge with costs covered by the volunteers. Flights are provided free by EAA members worldwide. The pilots who have participated in the program, donate their time and pay the full cost of providing the flights for the children in their own or rented aircraft. It was launched in 1992. The Eagles program is for students older than age 18, and students can be accepted into the Eagles Program even at age 25.
Students spend about 90 minutes before their flight learning about the entire pre-flight startup procedure. This includes the airplane’s speed, gps, altitude, direction, watch gauges, fuel levels, cockpit technology, tire pressure. They then hear their mentor pilot shouting “Clear!” before takeoff.
Grove is the first Young Eagles Student who has flown at the airport in at least 10 years. It was fitting she was the inaugural student, because she volunteered at the airport with Beaubien, and job shadowed there. She worked last summer as a volunteer and even repaired a light on the runway, that had been knocked down for two weeks. Beaubien and Grove call each other friends, and Beaubien taught Grove the phonetic alphabet, and the two text back and forth using code.
“It’s my happy place. I’ve been making more time for it lately. I love being the first student,” Grove said. “We’ve got TVCC Aviation pushing younger people out her to fly,” she said. Grove might eventually buy her own plane, either a Piper or Cessna. The first time she flew in a private plane, she was four or five years old and was attending her dad’s friends wedding. She said her first flight was in a Cessna 182, and she’d been in 3 planes with engines, and one glider.
Beaubien said of Grove, “I can attest, she’s a good flyer.”
He also admitted to recently taking his first trip in a glider, catching a ride from Fixed Base Operator/Owner and friend Tom Frazier. Beaubien said it felt like being a bird, with no noise, “just you and the sky.”
“Ace Academy began at the airport five years ago with a handful of sixth-graders, and today has grown to over four-hundred. We want to hopefully enhance the program,” Frazier said.
Ace Academy was developed for youth age 12 thru 18 in Idaho, and has expanded into Ontario. The two and a-half day program encompasses some ground school, and a half day of actual flight training, he said.
Ace Academy is funded via corporate sponsors, and will be July 16-18, with a $25 registration fee.
The airport has several local aviation programs for students and youth, which Beaubien says he hopes to grow, and revitalize the airport with new programming on deck. Oregon State University hosts STEM courses for young students in a classroom at the airport.
TVCC will host an Aviation Camp Program July 11-13 for students age 14 to 18.