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Young Eagles Program Feeds Local Youths’ Love for Aviation and the Sciences

At any given moment, in homes throughout Ventura County, there are school-aged children playing with paper airplanes and wooden gliders, interrupted only by the sound of a real plane flying overhead. A sound that takes them outside with their eyes to the sky as they watch a small general aviation plane, jet, helicopter, or military aircraft soar above their home.

They are young engineers and scientists.

They are kids with a dream.

In 1992 a national program was launched to help nurture those dreams and give them a way to take flight – literally and figuratively. To date, the Young Eagles program has flown more than 2.3 million kids ages 8-17 from throughout the country, all made possible by local organizations committed to harboring the mission of Young Eagles – a mission focused on introducing and inspiring youth about the world of aviation.

Ventura County’s youth have access to this program thanks to the commitment of the Camarillo Airport EAA Chapter 723 and the Oxnard Airport EAA Chapter 1469. Together, the chapters offer regular Young Eagles events targeted specifically for kids who wouldn’t otherwise have access to flying in a plane, let alone learning the ins and outs of what it takes to be a pilot through simulation, remote controlled aircraft, educational presentations, and more.

The Oxnard chapter offers quarterly events with the next event slated for December 9th at Oxnard Airport. The Camarillo chapter, which has earned national recognition from the EAA, offers monthly events that also extend to Santa Paula Airport. At each event, participating youth have the opportunity to go on a flight with one of the more than 15 volunteer pilots between the two chapters.

Since December 2022, both chapters have collectively flown more than 500 youth with an educational component that extends beyond the flight alone and into the world of career building through engineering and the sciences.

Both chapters also offer annual flight scholarships and academic scholarships aimed at primarily supporting students from Ventura County.

Other local non-profit organizations including the Commemorative Air Force, Civil Air Patrol, and the Ventura County Ninety-Nines have jumped at the chance to get involved. Barb Filkins, a volunteer pilot for Young Eagles and member of both the Camarillo and Oxnard EAA chapters as well as the Ventura County Ninety-Nines, responded to the impact of the program noting that the volunteer pilots often leave an event just as moved by the experience as the participants.

“They often come in shy and quiet,” she said of the kids. “Maybe even a bit scared. But they come out with enthusiasm and smiles. The pilots, I think, often leave with the same kind of smile.”

She continued, “The impact of the program is immeasurable. When you see a child who may not have thought about a career in aviation become inspired – to see it click – it’s phenomenal. That’s what Young Eagles does – it brings something that might seem unattainable directly to kids and makes it real.”