Jonathan Fineman, of Camp Verde, along with his grandchildren Curtis Roy, 14, and his brother Adam 10, both of Washington and their friend Ryan Dietzenbach, 9, of Colorado all are Young Eagles. They stand in a Fineman's hangar where he keeps his 1946 Aeronca 7AC Champ.
The Young Eagles program introduces a new generation of potential aviators to the world of powered flight.
Pilots in the Young Eagles program explain the safe operations of airplanes and the principles of flight before short trips.
He said that getting involved with the Young Eagles program seemed like a great idea.
"Both my wife Bette and myself have been flying with kids for a long time and getting involved with the Young Eagles made a lot of sense," he said. "This way, they are aware of a potential career and there are so many avenues of aviation besides being a pilot."
Fineman added that Bette started introducing children to aviation beginning with her own kids, then it went onto her grandkids and they both are still at it.
He said that, locally, the group size averages about 30 children and, "The pilots take small groups of kids and they explain the aircraft and then they take a ride up," Fineman said. "When we are cruising, sometimes the kids actually get to take control of the plane."
He said that often there is room for parents to take a flight and the response has always been very positive.
Fineman said that he and Bette, also a veteran pilot, have given presentations to children at area schools.
The Young Eagles program's goal is to allow young people, primarily ages 8 through 17, to experience positive, meaningful activities and discover the possibilities within the world of aviation.
In November 2003, the Young Eagles program registered more than 1 million Young Eagles, which meant that the EAA had met its goal of 1 million flights by Dec. 17, 2003, the 100th anniversary of powered flight and the 50th anniversary of the EAA.
Nationally, Young Eagles have flown more than 1,026,750 times since the foundation of the program in 1992. More than 35,000 EAA member pilots have participated in the program, volunteering their time and aircraft to make the flights possible.
During the first International Young Eagles Day in June 1994, some 16,000 Young Eagles took to the skies with their mentor pilots.
Young people participating get to experience the thrill and adventure of flight, but they also receive a certificate signed by the pilot after the flight, making them members of Eagle Flight. The names of the pilots and the participants are then included in the World's Largest Logbook, which is on permanent display in the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wis.
In 1991, the EAA Aviation Foundation conducted a survey of long-time EAA members to help determine the organization's future priorities.
According to the EAA, nearly 92 percent said the EAA's primary objective should be to involve more young people in aviation.
The survey also showed that a flight experience, provided by a relative or a friend, helped guide the respondents toward aviation.
On May 13, 1992, members of the EAA announced Young Eagles program at a Washington, D.C., news conference after several months of coordination.
The fledgling Young Eagles took flight during the 1992 EAA Fly-In Convention in Oshkosh, when EAA President Tom Poberezny and Academy Award winning actor and pilot Cliff Robertson flew the first Young Eagles. Robertson served as the first honorary chairman.
Since 1994, General Chuck Yeager – the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound – has served as chairman of Young Eagles.
Fineman said that all of the reactions to the Young Eagles have been positive.
"We've received many letters from youngsters and even parents telling us how much they appreciate the program," he said. "The program is old enough that we learn many Young Eagles have become professional pilots."
He added that he met up with a former Young Eagles member who he had flown with years ago and learned that he had joined the U.S. Air Force and now pilots a Boeing B52 Stratofortress.
"That's a good thing to experience," he said.
For more information on Young Eagles for the Verde Valley, contact coordinator Martha Kaldenbaugh at 567 9216.
For more information on the EAA Young Eagles, contact Young Eagles office at P.O. Box 2683, Oshkosh, WI 54903-2683 or call (877) 806-8902. Young Eagles information is also available on-line at www.youngeagles.org.