December 23, 2003 - For 15-year old Andrew Grant, being selected as the 1 millionth EAA Young Eagle held several interesting surprises during last week’s 100th anniversary of flight celebration at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. With all that has happened in the past week, you might be wondering what Andrew did while at Kitty Hawk. Steve Buss, EAA Young Eagles Executive Director, compiled a daily recap of some of Andrew and his family’s experiences.
Sunday, December 14. Andrew and his family arrived at our rental condo in Kill Devil Hills around 10:30 p.m. This is the first time any of us have met in person, having only corresponded via telephone and e-mail since the announcement in November. Andrew’s pilot, Rick Ellis, and Rick’s brother, Vern, who also took part in the activities of the week, arrived shortly after the Grant family. It had been a long day of traveling and everyone was ready to find their hotel and enjoy a good night’s rest.
Monday, December 15. We met at the condo this morning for the short walk to the Wright Brothers’ Memorial. Because of the parking situation, it was easier to walk the six blocks to the gate than take the shuttle bus. We arrived at the park and showed our guests around the Countdown to Kitty Hawk Pavilion and the Wright Memorial. Andrew mentioned that he was surprised that EAA members recognized him in the airport. It is a scene that was repeated many times during the next few days.
After a short tour, we headed back to the condo for a quick lunch and then departed for the Dare County Airport in Manteo. EAA member Dan Gryder had a special surprise for Andrew. Dan is flying his DC-3 at the celebration in support of Portraits of Hope. Portraits of Hope engages thousands of children and adults who face challenges of vulnerability, pain, isolation and fear with joyous, prideful and innovative outlets that culminate in spectacular works of art. The organization goes directly to hospitals and illness-related camps, schools, senior centers, community institutions and other public venues where all generations participate in the program’s projects. The DC-3 has been painted by children around the country using Avery stick-on labels. The DC-3 looks unique to say the least. But up close, you can see where children have signed their contribution to the paint scheme. It is quite a moving tribute to each of them. Dan treated Andrew and Rick to a flight in the DC-3, which included some right-seat time. Everyone returned from the flight with huge smiles.
On Monday evening, nearly 30 Young Eagle volunteers who were at the centennial celebration joined Andrew and Rick for a reception at the condo. It was an informal gathering and gave our volunteers a chance to meet Andrew and Rick, relax and celebrate reaching our 1 million Young Eagles goal.
Tuesday, December 16. Tuesday was a beautiful day with plenty of sunshine, light winds and warm temperatures. We walked to the Memorial early to prepare for the Young Eagles news conference. The 9:30 a.m. conference gave us an opportunity to speak to the media covering the centennial. Tom Poberezny, Chairman Gen. Chuck Yeager, Andrew, Richard Beattie from Jaguar (our prime sponsor) and Steve McCullough of Conoco/Phillips all participated in the news conference and answered questions about Young Eagles, reaching the goal and the future of the program. Aside from Gen. Yeager, Andrew was in demand for interviews.
After the news conference and interviews, Andrew, his parents and brother Cody spent the day at the Memorial before heading back to the hotel for a well-deserved rest.
Wednesday, December 17. The 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ flight. At sunrise, the forecast of rain seemed to be incorrect, but by 8:30 a.m. the rain had arrived and would remain with us for most of the day. Andrew and Rick waited with me in the Countdown to Kitty Hawk Pavilion, while his family joined Michelle Kunes in the bleachers to see the President address the crowd. Although wet and cold, seeing the President in person seemed to raise the spirits of the crowd. Following the President’s remarks and departure, we ventured to the main stage to join Gen. Yeager for the flight attempt and the formal announcement of Young Eagle No. 1 million. As everyone knows by now, the flight was delayed by the weather. However, Andrew and Rick spent the time back stage listening to General Yeager and John Travolta talk about flying. It seems whenever any two pilots get together, hangar flying will follow. While waiting for our turn on stage, General Yeager also talked with a group of school children who were standing near the stage.
Finally, just before 11 a.m., Andrew, Rick and Gen. Yeager joined Tom Poberezny on the main stage for the Young Eagles presentation. Our portion of the program was capped off with a fly-by of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. Once off stage, we ran into Neil Armstrong. After seeing Mr. Armstrong, Andrew was amazed that we had met someone “who we learned about in school!”
Luckily, our schedule allowed us to stay at the Memorial for the flight attempt at 12:30. Despite the outcome, it was an exciting event to witness.
Right after the flight attempt we boarded a special shuttle bus for the trip to the Dare Country airport for our Young Eagle flight. A police escort made sure we could navigate traffic and still make our scheduled flight time. However, the weather that had plagued the festivities all day kept the ceremonial Young Eagle flight on the ground as well. A large bank of fog surrounded the Dare County airport at our scheduled take-off time, so the mission was scrubbed. However, Richard Beattie suggested an alternative flight in January near General Yeager’s home in California. Arrangements are pending, but the flight will take place soon.
It was an amazing week for all of us involved in the Young Eagles Program. We hope your celebration of the 100th anniversary of powered flight was as wonderful!
(l to r) Gen. Chuck Yeager pictured with EAA's 1 millionth Young Eagle, Andrew Grant; Flight Leader Rick Ellis; and Jaguar's Richard Beattie.