EAA AirVenture Oshkosh – July 27, 2005
By Barbara A. Schmitz
When Barbara Goodwin and Kirk Foecking finally became pilots, they wanted to give everybody an opportunity to experience flight. Carol Thompson-MacCabe enjoys working with kids and seeing the excitement on their faces. Elaine and Ralph Phillips just love children.
No matter the reason they got involved in EAA’s Young Eagles program, they have stayed involved because they know they are making a difference. While thousands give of their time to make the Young Eagles program soar, a few have been honored for their extraordinary efforts. This year’s winners received their awards at Theater in the Woods Wednesday night, July 27, from Young Eagles chairman Harrison Ford.
This year’s award recipients include:
- Goodwin, Horizon Award
Kirk Foecking, Outstanding Chapter Coordinator
Carol MacCabe, Outstanding Field Representative
Elaine and Ralph Phillips, Ground Support Volunteers
"It’s difficult to select just one person from each of the categories to receive an award, and it gets more difficult with each passing year," says Steve Buss, Young Eagles executive director. "There are so many wonderful people who are a part of the Young Eagles program. While we are honoring these volunteers for their work, there are thousands of others out there who continue to make Young Eagles such a successful program."
Barbara Goodwin, Horizon Award
Goodwin, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, jumped at the chance to be a Young Eagles field representative in 1992 when the program began. Why not? She had already been giving free airplane rides to kids on her own.
"Every year after I learned to fly in 1984 I had airplane contests at school so I could give students rides," says the former full-time teacher. "So when the Young Eagles program started, I felt like I was made for it. After I learned to fly I thought everybody should learn to fly, and I wanted to give as many young people as possible a chance to experience flight."
Today she works closely with the Kalamazoo Air Zoo Museum and EAA Chapter 221, but she has also reached out to local education groups to extend the program’s reach, a major reason she was chosen for the Horizon Award.
For example, she’s done presentations on aviation and the Young Eagles program for groups such as Girl Scouts. But she’s also done aviation workshops for Michigan educators, bringing in Young Eagles materials and encouraging the teachers to go back to their home airports and check into the free flights.
Goodwin admitted that she probably wouldn’t have started flying if her husband hadn’t first gotten his certificate. Still, it was something she had dreamed of doing since she was 4-1/2 years old. "During the Depression, my father would ask me what I wanted to do on Sunday afternoons, and I always wanted to go to the airport."
Today she has about 2,500 hours in the air. She also competes in the Air Race Classic, a women’s cross-country airplane race, after having her students raise money so she could afford that first race.
A 15-year-old who had never flown before summed up Goodwin’s feelings of flying best after a Young Eagles flight. "He said, ‘When you’re up here flying you can forget all your other troubles.’ It was exactly the way I felt when I learned to fly. I was so involved in flying that everything else could wait until I came back on the ground."
Kirk Foecking. Chapter Coordinator
Foecking, of Galena, Illinois, remembers wanting to fly as a child, but he didn’t get a chance to do so until he was middle-aged. "But once I did get my pilot’s license I wanted to give rides to others and pass that excitement on to them."
While he has flown 50 Young Eagles, today his efforts are concentrated on connecting children and pilots. "What happened in the past was that we’d have one big event, and then it would rain and no one would show up," recalls the EAA Chapter 75 coordinator. "I worked to put in place more relaxed—and regular—events; we try to make it fun for the kids, the pilots and the ground crew."
Chapter 75 flies Young Eagles monthly on the mornings of their regular meetings. "That way if a kid can’t make it one month, then he or she can come the next month," Foecking explains. "I hand out a lot of folded brochures about the program and put out information to the different news media. The pilots don’t need much of an excuse to fly, and if a lot of kids don’t show up, then we give each other rides," he says.
Between 2000, when he became Chapter coordinator, and 2004, Chapter 75 has given 2,378 Young Eagles flights, including a high of 784 in 2003.
"We have very good volunteers, pilots, and a ground crew," he says. "I just put it together and get different groups—such as Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts and other organizations—to come."
Besides helping to connect pilots who want to give flights with children who want to take to the air, Foecking also organizes Chapter pilots to take advantage of pilot credits and send youth to EAA’s Air Academy.
The Chapter has helped send two youths to the Air Academy a year for four years, and this year, the Chapter is sending three.
In addition, Foecking has organized ground schools for rallies and established a merit badge program for local scouts. And when he’s not busy, he also volunteers and supports other Chapter’s Young Eagles activities in the area.
Carol MacCabe, Field Representative
MacCabe, a former high school teacher and dean of students, says it was a love of aviation and children that drew her to Young Eagles. "But it’s the people that got me hooked on the program."
When she began with the program and the Chicago-area Young Eagles operations, she first worked as a ground volunteer. The Rolling Meadows, Illinois, resident became a field representative three years ago.
"I basically try to work with the Chapter and Chapter coordinators and people who are interested in getting involved with the Young Eagles program," she says. "I then pair kids with Chapters. I’m basically a goodwill ambassador for the program. I’ve gone out to schools and spoken at career days or to aviation clubs. I try to get the word out about Young Eagles wherever I can."
In addition, she helps out with Challenge Air, a program that gives children with physical and mental disabilities a chance to fly and learn more about aviation. "They come out to Palwaukee, and we set up exhibits and have the kids do make-and-take projects. We give Young Eagles rides. Seeing the kids’ eyes pop … is infectious. You can’t help but respond and be excited, too."
A student pilot, MacCabe says her mother wrote in her baby book that one of the first words she uttered was "airplane," even though no one in her family had an interest in aviation.
MacCabe is also a freelance writer and has helped place stories in the local media about the Young Eagles program. "Teaching, flying, and writing; I’m lucky in that I can combine all the things I love," she says.
Elaine and Ralph Phillips, Outstanding Ground Volunteers
The Phillips, of Lake City, Florida, say they’re not outstanding. It’s just that they have a great team of volunteers in EAA Chapter 977.
How do you get such a great team to come back?
"I twist their arm," Elaine jokes.
Joking aside, Elaine says they live in an airpark and know everybody. "Most of the people in our EAA Chapter are all our neighbors," she says. "All I have to do is call and ask them for their help, and they always come through."
But Elaine also comes through, too, calling and thanking each volunteer after every event. "For those who go over and beyond the call of duty, I even bake them a big brownie, either round or heart-shaped, that says ‘thanks’ and their name."
Elaine also thanks businesses and others who donate items for the event, as well as the media, the school principals, and others who helped to spread the word.
It takes about 50 people working on ground support to make an event go smoothly. Some register the children, give tours of the various stations, or teach them what makes an airplane fly. Children are issued a boarding pass, and loaders take them to the appropriate planes to introduce them to the pilots and help them get buckled in.
After their flight, the children are given a picture of the airplane and the pilot to keep as a souvenir.
Then unloaders bring them to a holding area where they pick up their certificate and pin. Next, they’re sent to a table filled with stickers, posters, and aviation magazines and booklets on learning to fly. Then volunteers talk to them and help them write their experiences down, so years later, they can look back and recall what their Young Eagles flight was like.
The Phillips, both retired educators, say they love working with children. "We feel that it is a vital thing to get our youth interested in all types of activities and further their education," Elaine says. "And because we both fly and we love to fly, the Young Eagles program is a natural combination."