By Jeremy Welch, EAA 1205372
On March 30, 2018, I was privileged to join the ranks of pilots by obtaining my private pilot certificate. Even more so, I was honored to have met my long-awaited goal at the youngest legal age of 17. I had prepared for and anticipated for this milestone for more than two years by studying and putting forth every effort so my goal would be met. Often, I sacrificed countless hours studying aviation material to prepare for upcoming flight lessons or required tests. All of these actions provided me with the outcome I desired, however, the road upon which my aviation journey traveled was not laid by my own efforts, but by the support I received from the members of EAA Chapter 690.
The foundation of my aviation journey was Chapter 690’s youth build program and its mentors, who volunteer their time with the youth. The program was established so youth like myself could lower the cost of obtaining a pilot certificate by participating in the construction of an Ultra-Piet. We are allowed one hour of flight training per every 10 hours we work on constructing the plane. This is made possible through several flight instructors who volunteer their time to match the credit hours we have earned. Every Saturday of the month, a build session meets from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. We systematically proceed through the aircraft plans and complete each step as guided until the desired result is obtained. With each section complete (i.e. fuselage, wings, and empennage) the project begins to have the appearance of an airplane. What has been very inspirational to me has been the sacrifice of the mentors. Every Saturday morning they arrive ready and joyful to help the youth, and they teach us and share with us their vast knowledge of aircraft construction.
Since May of 2016, I have been an active participant in Chapter 690’s youth program. I have come from knowing absolutely nothing about how an airplane is built, nut and bolt sizes, operation of specific machines and tools, or precise measurements, to having a fairly comprehensive understanding of aircraft construction. Reading the plans used to be extremely difficult, and I would often be confused as to what exactly I was looking at. Now looking at the plans and translating its information is like reading a book, or sometimes like a novel because they can still occasionally make my head spin. My work on the Ultra-Piet has ranged from sanding wood, cutting metal, and installing control cables to rebuilding an engine.
Ultimately, I have been afforded an opportunity many people will never have, and it has provided me with experience that has translated into my flying and everyday life. Every time I move the elevators, push the rudder pedals, or command the throttle when I fly, I know exactly what makes them move because of my experience constructing an airplane.
Another privilege which I was able to benefit from by participating in the chapter’s youth program was the ground school, taught free of charge, by experienced chapter members. Each session provided me with a more in-depth understanding of all of the problems found in the private pilot written test. Not only did I gain knowledge of what to expect on the test, but, more importantly, I was given fantastic tips that guided me along my journey to obtaining my private pilot certificate and still help me today. Their assistance proved to be valuable because I was able to pass my written test with a score of 98 percent.
Since joining Chapter 690 more than two years ago, I have watched the youth program blossom into something extraordinary. Several more projects have been added that the youth are currently working on, including a full-size Pietenpol and a BD-6, along with the single-seat Pietenpol that is nearly complete. There is now a waiting list to join the build program due to the increase in interest since the program was established. Ground school is offered, still free of charge, three times per month and several youth involved with the program are undergoing flight training, with hopefully many more to follow. The chapter is constantly participating in aviation events, and I have had the opportunity to volunteer at some of them. They include EAA’s Ford Tri-Motor and B-17 tour stops and a monthly Young Eagles rally. After obtaining my private pilot certificate I am committed to flying in the Young Eagles rally with the hope that my aviation journey will inspire others to pursue the same goals I have. Currently, commercial aviation is undergoing a serious pilot shortage, so now is a good time for aspiring pilots like myself. It is my dream that my passion for aviation will be a witness to others so that I can give to this generation of pilots what has been given to me by the members of EAA Chapter 690 and all those who have contributed to my aviation journey.
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