EAA scholarship winner Wyatt Lucas smiles from a plane at the Oakland Troy Airport before a flight lesson with instructor Dennis Glaesser.

EAA scholarship winner Wyatt Lucas smiles from a plane at the Oakland Troy Airport before a flight lesson with instructor Dennis Glaesser.

Photo by Jonathan Shead


Scholarship helps resident pursue piloting passion

By: Jonathan Shead | Troy Times | Published July 1, 2021

 Troy resident Laaysa Modem, 9, steps into pilot Peter Dungale’s 1939 Piper J3 Cub plane for a ride during Young Eagle Day at the Ray Township Airport June 12. Dungale’s plane is a World War II-era plane with no electricity, which means the propeller must be hand cranked.

Troy resident Laaysa Modem, 9, steps into pilot Peter Dungale’s 1939 Piper J3 Cub plane for a ride during Young Eagle Day at the Ray Township Airport June 12. Dungale’s plane is a World War II-era plane with no electricity, which means the propeller must be hand cranked.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Leonard resident Bradley Arundale, 9, gears up to take a ride in pilot Mike Koehler’s RV6 plane during Young Eagle Day at the Ray Township Airport June 12.

Leonard resident Bradley Arundale, 9, gears up to take a ride in pilot Mike Koehler’s RV6 plane during Young Eagle Day at the Ray Township Airport June 12.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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TROY — One local resident, Wyatt Lucas, 18, will now be able to pursue his passion for flying and to work toward earning his commercial pilot’s license after being awarded a $10,000 scholarship from the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Chapter 13 Young Eagle program in Ray Township.

“It feels astounding. I am so stoked for it,” Lucas said about winning the scholarship funds. “Being awarded that scholarship makes it feel like I’m actually accomplishing things toward this goal.”

Chapter 13 EAA Vice President and Young Eagle Scholarship Coordinator Julie Fullmer said choosing a scholarship recipient, like Lucas, who would continue to pursue earning their pilot’s license contributed to the chapter board’s decision.

Lucas has already begun his ground training to become a pilot. The scholarship funds will pay for the entirety of his in-air flight training, he said. The Young Eagle program provides students 8-17 years old with free airplane rides and access to pilots to get them interested in aviation. Lucas was involved in the program for six years, before he aged out.

Lucas’ love for aviation came pretty quickly after joining the Young Eagle program, he said. During his second flight through the program, the pilot asked if he wanted to try controlling the plane with him. “He allowed me to actually control the plane in the air, and I just thought, ‘This is awesome, but it’s also terrifying.’ It (was) my second time, and I (was) actually flying.”

His interest in flying took off even more with each new encounter he had as a Young Eagle. “It basically put me around great people; a great bunch of pilots who knew what they were doing and who were both interested and passionate about explaining the joys of flying,” Lucas added.

“The experience of having the planes, and all that, just makes it so unique and an exhilarating experience.”

It’s not just Lucas who has found an interest in aviation through the program, Fullmer said. She’s seen a steady increase in attendance of kids excited to learn about piloting over the years.

“I think that it has increased. Our Young Eagle events are very busy, and the kids are very excited. What began with an overabundance of boys versus girls, we’re now seeing that it’s about 50/50,” she said, adding that a Young Eagle Day June 12 brought in more than 70 kids and eight pilots. “It’s a great program just to get the kids interested. A lot of these kids didn’t even know that small planes were really a thing. Many of them had been on commercial airplanes but not on the small ones.”

The EAA program has flown over 2.5 million children in the last 25 years, Lucas’ pilot instructor, Dennis Glaesser, said. Over that time, kids involved have learned about more than just flying a plane, Fullmer added.

“They definitely get a state of what it’s like to fly an airplane,” Fullmer said. “Many of the pilots talk about lift and how the airplanes stay in the sky. We have a program that many of our Young Eagles participated in with flying and building remote-controlled airplanes. I think that aspect of it helps kids build a sense of teamwork, when they’re working on the remote control build with other kids.”

Other skills come along the way too, Glaesser said. “You learn a lot of stuff about weather, aerodynamics, decision making and risk management. It’s literally a whole life experience you get as part of this. Flying the airplane is almost the smallest part, in the end. It’s a really important part, obviously, but all the things you learn on decision making and evaluation of what’s going on, that’s the real key.”

The biggest benefit Fullmer believes the participants get from the program is the ability to conquer their fears. “I think one of the biggest things is it kind of helps kids step out of their comfort zone a little bit,” she said.

Lucas suggests any kid who may be interested in flying check out the Young Eagle program. “I would recommend you start taking some of the classes and learn more about it. Have people explain it to you more,” he said. “It’s very fun. It’s very enjoyable. You’re not going to regret it. If you like flying, get into it, and you’ll be happy. You’ll love it.”

For more information, visit eaa.org/youth.

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