Sister Aviators Thankful for Their EAA Experiences, Opportunities
(l to r) EAA Air Academy camp counselors Stephanie and Shelly Schaub.
July 5, 2012 - Shelly and Stephanie Schaub remember watching Oshkosh-bound planes fly over their childhood home in Ripon, Wisconsin, and trying to tune into the radio airwaves to listen to the ATC chatter. Years later, the sisters are both pursuing careers in aviation and credit their love for flight to the Young Eagles program and their EAA mentor, Bob Royce.
"Most kids look up when they see an airplane and say, 'Oh that's cool,' but once they are in it, it's a totally different experience," said Shelly, 21. "I think that is where a lot of kids get bitten by the bug. When they have that first flight, the light bulb goes on and they are like, 'Yep, this is it.'"
Bob gave both girls their first Young Eagles flights and encouraged Shelly's instant fascination with flying. Shelly recalls sitting on phone books to see over the plane's panel while Bob moved the seat all the way forward so she could almost touch the pedals.
"'What do you want to be when you grow up?' he asked me, and I said 'I want to be an astronaut!'" Shelly said. "And then he was like, 'You know, you can't be an astronaut unless you are a pilot first, because then you can't fly the space shuttle.' It was a revelation. That was it - I'd be a pilot!"
Shelly started attending local EAA chapter meetings with her father and Bob and began flying lessons when she turned 15. She has her private pilot certificate and plans to become a CFI, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire this fall with an education degree, then student teaching in New Zealand this August.
Stephanie, 19, enjoyed watching her older sister's enthusiasm for flying throughout their teenage years, and has since found her own niche in a different area of aviation: air traffic control.
"My first tower visit was at Oshkosh," Stephanie said. "I talked to the controller up there and he told me that although people say it's incredibly challenging to do this job, if you have a passion for it, just go with it. He said, 'You should really do this. It's a great career.'"
Taking his advice and following her passion for aviation, Stephanie is currently pursuing a degree in ATC at the University of North Dakota, and is working as an EAA Air Academy camp counselor in Oshkosh this summer.
"When I was younger, Bob was my mentor, but he was a lot older than me," Shelly said. "There really wasn't anyone else my age around that liked flying and so it (the academy) was a place to go where there were other kids like you. I realized after I got back from my first camp that I wanted to be around people who love aviation, so I kept coming back."
Shelly who was a counselor for four years after attending the camp for two years. After her sister visited one year, Stephanie decided to get involved, too.
"I think it's so cool how all these kids just love it," Stephanie said. "The program makes their aviation career goals seem attainable. Like, 'Oh, I can do this. I like doing this, and I know how to do it.'
"A lot of kids don't have Bob Royce as their neighbor, so they can't just walk up and say, 'Hey, can I go in your plane?'"
From their very first flight to working in the academy as counselors, EAA has given these girls incredible opportunities, and they have seen this reflected in the kids they meet at camp.
"The support that EAA chapters provide is one of the strongest things," Shelly said. "The kids here are from all over and tell me all about what their EAA chapters do for them, and that's just really cool."
The sisters have found that no matter where they travel, EAA, Oshkosh, and AirVenture are all widely recognized aviation symbols.
"Even in New Zealand they know where we are," Shelly said. "I was communicating with a CFI down there so I can fly during my stay there, because three months is a long time to be away from flying, and he knew exactly where Oshkosh was, and about AirVenture."
The sisters can't wait for AirVenture to start and once again be surrounded by people who "love, love, love" aviation, just like they do.
"It's a disease," Shelly said, "but a good one."