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Tue, Jun 17, 2003

Young Eagles: If Ya Want A GOOD Start, Start At The Top

A Young Eagle Gets Her Start With Chuck Yeager

An "experience to remember" is how 12-year-old Danielle Orcutt described her recent flight in a World War II T-6 piloted by retired Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager, at Maxwell AFB. Danielle and 39 other "Young Eagles" were given the privilege of flying with aviation legends after winning an essay contest conducted at local elementary schools by the Gathering of Eagles program committee.

"It was like a roller-coaster ride, and Mr. Yeager allowed me to actually fly the airplane," said Danielle, the daughter of the command chief master sergeant for the standard systems group, Chief Master Sgt. Vicki Orcutt, and her husband, John. "This is the first time I've ever been in a small airplane, and it felt really, really cool to take control of the plane."

The flight was such a "fantastic experience," said the youngster, that she might be interested in pursuing a flying career. Yeager, who flew combat in World War II and Vietnam, was an Air Force test pilot and is probably best known for being the first man to break the sound barrier. He said the goal of the Young Eagles project is to give 1 million children a chance to experience flying. The legend spent time at Maxwell AFB as a participant in Air Command and Staff College's Gathering of Eagles program.

"It is great to see the expressions on their faces and most are surprised at how easy it is to fly an airplane," he said. "But the real purpose of the program is to orient children to flying and teach them the principles of flight."

Yeager (right), who has attended all but one of the 22 annual Gathering of Eagles at the Air University, said the Young Eagles group hoped to hit its goal of 1 million children in flight by Dec. 17, the date Kitty Hawk, N.C., celebrates 100 years of manned flight. This year's Young Eagles coordinator and Air Command and Staff College student, Maj. Jim Ledbetter, said the goals of the program are to provide young people with new perspectives of the world, encourage and inspire them in the field of aviation and motivate them to set goals for their futures.

"We want to give them a sense of confidence and determination, to instill a positive self-image and allow them to discover their individual unlimited potential," he said. The Young Eagles program is sponsored by EAA.

The Gathering of Eagles brings in some of the world's aviation pioneers. The annual event is designed to enhance the study of aviation history and emphasize the contributions to the world of aviation by these pioneers. [ANN Thanks Carl Bergquist, Air University Public Affairs]

FMI: www.youngeagles.org

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