John Meyers is one of many local pilots preparing to send youth into flight at the Young Eagles Rally this weekend.
Through the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), Meyers and other pilots in EAA Chapter 430 are volunteering their airplanes and time to give youth ages 8-17 a free ride from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12, at the Sequim Valley Airport.
Meyers said he started flying at 16 years old and later was hired by United Airlines at 21.
He retired from United Airlines with more than 36 years of experience as a commercial pilot and became a simulator instructor for a South Korean airline from 2003-2009.
Meyers also is an EAA member and is serving as the coordinator for the Young Eagles rallies this year.
“You keep hoping to hand the baton to a younger group of people,” Meyers said.
He said these rallies serve, “to do something for the public and younger generation.”
The Young Eagles rallies provide youth an opportunity to experience what pilots do on the ground and in the air.
Meyers said local EAA chapters hold rallies throughout the year with weather permitting. There are 5-10 pilots that participate in giving free airplane rides to youth and in the past an estimated 50-60 children and teens have attended the event.
“There’s supposed to be a relationship with the pilot and the child,” Meyers said. “It’s more introductory than a joy ride.”
The program also gives participating youth a logbook with a code to activate a free EAA student membership that includes access to Learn to Fly courses, education and training.
Meyers said a main goal of the Young Eagles program is to expose youth to aviation at a young age and allow them the opportunity to pursue a career in the field later in life.
Dan Ramberg — or as Meyers and his wife call him “Grandpa” — another local volunteer pilot for the Young Eagles rallies, said his grandson Brandon learned basic flight skills from Meyers and other flight instructors and was able to earn his private pilot license.
Since then, Ramberg and Meyers said Brandon has gone on to earn his commercial pilot license and is continuing his career in aviation to be a fully qualified pilot.
While Brandon was too old to participate in the Young Eagles rallies when he first started, Meyers and Ramberg said Brandon is an example of the potential youth have to become involved in aviation when they are introduced to the field at a young age.
“Aviation is highly regulated, especially for the pilots; you jump through a lot of hoops to get a license, ” Meyers said.
“That’s part of the guidance the EAA and the chapter provide to young people is to guide them through some of these hurdles in the beginning.”
Ramberg said from his experience as a pilot for the Young Eagles rallies, there is a thrill in, “letting someone else experience the joy that I get from what I do.”
He also is a retired United Airlines employee that worked in the maintenance department for 35 years. He earned his pilot license at age 21 and also serves as a Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 1103 where he taught Scouts the skills needed to earn the aviation merit badge.
Ramberg said he recalls one endearing memory of a Young Eagles rally last year when he took several young girls for a flight when one of them said, “I can see the whole world from here,” when the plane he was flying reached altitude.
“That’s the kind of thing you want to instill in youth,” Ramberg said. “It’s just a thrill for them to be able to see things from a different perspective.”
To learn more about the Clallam County EAA Chapter 430 and Young Eagles Rally on Saturday, Aug. 12, visit http://eaa430.org/. Youth that wish to participate in the rally must have a parent or legal guardian with them to consent for the ride.
Reach Erin Hawkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.