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EAA Ultralight Chapter Gives Free T-Shirts to 88 Young Eagles

Young Eagle
One of the 88 Young Eagles at the Paxton Illinois Fly-In

EAA Chapter UL30 (Illini Skyriders) sponsored a fly-in on July 16, 2011, at the Paxton Airport (1C1) in conjunction with EAA Chapter 29 members who provided Young Eagle rides at the event. Both chapters are located in the Champaign, Illinois, area. Most UL30 members fly ultralights or single-seat light experimental aircraft not suitable for Young Eagle rides, so they instead donated a specially made T-shirt to each of the kids who took a ride.

Chapter UL30 Secretary Rob Steiger came up with the idea as a way of promoting the local airport, the local chapter, and the Young Eagles program. The lettering on the T-shirt reads, “I got my free Young Eagle flight at the Paxton Airport Open House.” An advertisement was placed in the local newspaper promising the free T-shirt to any kid that came out to the airport for a free airplane ride. It worked.

Last year, when the two chapters first held this event at Paxton, they gave 48 Young Eagles rides. This year 88 youngsters went to the airport for a ride and now wear the shirt to help promote aviation and the local airport. The cost was partially offset by selling another 36 shirts to the public for a slight profit.

Dividing the work of putting on a fly-in and running the Young Eagles effort turned out well. Each group focused on what it did best. EAA Headquarters statistics indicate 1,528 kids have received rides from Chapter 29 since the program began. That’s nearly 40 kids per chapter member.

As for Chapter UL30, the ultralight group has focused heavily on fly-ins since its inception in 1982. The chapter holds nine fly-ins per year at both public and private airports. Almost every meeting is a fly-in event.

The two EAA chapters have tried to gain more community support for the Paxton Airport as some in the community think it should be closed. There’s currently no FBO, and the airport hasn’t held a fly-in or open house in nearly two decades. Chapter members report a growing sense of support in the community as a result of their efforts. For next year, they plan to recruit local businesses as sponsors for the T-shirt program.  

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