Helena, Mont. – Sept. 15, 2005 – Magadan, a regional subdivision of Russia, may be bitterly cold at times, but the Russian teenagers who come to visit the United States each year leave EAA Young Eagles flight leader Jeanne MacPherson feeling very warm.
Since 1995, MacPherson, bureau chief of safety and education for the Montana Aeronautics Division, has given more than 100 Russian students a chance to experience flight through EAA’s Young Eagles program. And they’re always very grateful and excited.
“It’s so special,” MacPherson says. “It’s hard to explain since all the student programs I do are special. But these students are so appreciative. Although our cultures are different, in the airplane we connect. For awhile, we’re just people and … I can show them the gift of flight over Montana.”
Club Podvig, a cadet program from Magadan, has been coming to the United States since 1991, and to Montana since 1995. The cultural exchange focuses on education, information and personal and professional growth.
Mike Rogan, left, and Jeanne MacPherson, right, with the students from Club Podvig.
While they do and see many things in the United States, aviation is an important focus of the club since members are all skydivers. The club consists of both girls and boys in middle or high school.
The Montana Aeronautics Division’s aviation education and EAA Young Eagles programs are highlights of Club Podvig's Montana visit. This year, MacPherson and Mike Rogan gave the cadets an orientation Young Eagles flight.
“They’re all so interested in aviation,” she said. “The have jump pins on their uniform, and if they have a really good flight, they’ll give you their jump pins.”
The Russian students go through the same things as any other EAA Young Eagle. But MacPherson said she tries to give each student a chance to be in the front passenger seat.
“Talking on the radio is always one of the highlights,” MacPherson says. This year a student in her plane was talking to another student in Rogan’s plane and although they were speaking Russian, it was evident they were having fun.
“They were speaking fast and with great excitement,” she says. “Then another person cut in on the radio, saying he didn’t know what they were saying. I can only imagine what he thought.”
The students also enjoy trying out the flight simulator and getting aviation posters from the industry, MacPherson says. Sheila Pfeifer set up the division's flight simulator as part of the aviation education program.
The students spent six weeks in the United States, including about two weeks in Montana where they lived at a KOA Campground and helped do chores and projects in return for lodging.
One of the highlights for MacPherson was a giant appreciation dinner Club Podvig members held right before they left. Not only was the food great, but also the entertainment was hilarious.
“Imagine handsome high school students dressed as swans to do ‘Swan Lake’ in a skit,” she says. But just as funny was a skit the teenagers did on how they viewed American politics.
Club Podvig is helping to melt the ice curtain, MacPherson says, and bringing people of two very different countries together.
“They’ve invited me to go to Magadan, and maybe sometime I will go,” she says. “But if I go, I’m going to have to learn how to say ‘I’m cold’ in Russian first. In March, it’s often –40 degrees below Fahrenheit!”
- •The Magadan Oblast is a regional subdivision of Russia, in the Far Eastern Federal District.
- •It is Russia's 13th largest subdivision, and at the same time one of the least populous with182,726 inhabitants as of the 2002 census.
- •Located on the port of the sea of Okhotsk, its major industries are shipbuilding and fishing.
- •A highway, known as the “Road of Bones,” leads from Magadan to the gold-mining region on the upper Kolyma River. It is named for the large number of prisoners who died during its construction.
- •During the Stalin era, it was a major transit center for prisoners being sent to labor camps.
- •It is very isolated. There is only one road in and out, and the nearest city is Yakutsk, 2200 km, or 1,364 miles, away down a road that is only half paved.
- •It is the only modern Russian city to have the same name as a city mentioned in the Bible. (Matthew 15:39)