In 1992, the Experimental Aircraft Association created the Young Eagles Program and charged it with giving free airplane rides to 1 million young people ages 8 to 17 by Dec. 17, 2003—the centennial of the Wright brothers’ first engine- powered flight.
Based in Oshkosh, Wis., the Young Eagles Program expects to pass the 990,000- flier mark by the end of October. The one-millionth passenger will fly with retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager at a Dec. 17 re- enactment of the historic flight in Kitty Hawk, N.C.
The Young Eagle flights are organized by local EAA pilots through schools, community groups, and individuals as a way to promote the centennial of powered flight, and to introduce aviation to a new generation. “At the beginning, a lot of people in aviation said, ‘You’re crazy,’” recalls Dick Knapinski, the spokesman for the EAA. “It took off slowly, but has really grown in the past few years.”