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Oregon Pilot Flies His 5,000th Young Eagle

Larry Durst
EAA Chapter 495's Larry Durst flew his 5,000th Young Eagle, Cole Brecht, 12 (far right), on Friday, June 7. Also pictured are Young Eagles Jesse Brecht, 10, and Lily Creekmore, 11. (Photo courtesy of Joe Messinger, EAA Chapter 495)

June 11, 2013 - Larry Durst, EAA Lifetime 38651, of EAA Chapter 495 in Roseburg, Oregon, achieved something Friday that only one other pilot had done before: flying 5,000 kids in the EAA Young Eagles program.

Larry, a semi-retired dentist, flew No. 5,000 during the first of several flights at the Roseburg Airport in his Cessna 182 on Friday morning, June 7. That day Larry flew a total of 34 kids. Previously the 5,000 club had only one member - EAA's Pioneer Airport volunteer pilot Fred Stadler.

Cole Brecht, 12, of nearby Looking Glass, Oregon, was registered as No. 5,000. He told KPIC-TV, "It's really great to fly. You just see everything up there."

Larry began flying Young Eagles in 1994, and originally set a goal of flying 500 kids by the centennial celebration of the Wright brothers' first flight in 2003. He achieved that goal, but as his wife Maxine - who handles promotion and paperwork for her husband's Young Eagles activities - stated, they expected the program would wind down beyond December 17, 2003. Instead, Young Eagles has continued to thrive, with more than 700,000 since then (the current total exceeds 1.7 million).

Maxine, who Larry described as "quite a recruiter," is involved in several different local school reading activities. She began to help Larry fill the plane with eager youngsters when he was at 330 kids flown. "She took me from 330 to 5,000," he said.

Larry accomplished this milestone by flying kids twice a week, mostly during the spring and summer. He's flown a total of 2,100 hours, the vast majority made up of 20-minute flights with kids on board.

Larry earned his private ticket in 1964, and joined AOPA and later EAA when he got the idea to build his own airplane. While that never happened, he has been giving children in Douglas County the chance to fly since 1994.

Larry and Maxine have been to AirVenture Oshkosh twice - in 2006 and 2007. During their first visit, Larry received the EAA Young Eagles Horizons Award, as well as a surprise from then-Chairman Harrison Ford, who gave him special recognition for flying the 1.25 millionth Young Eagle.

"This sure has been a whirlwind for me," Larry said back then. "The Young Eagles program has become a real passion in my life. In what other program can you provide flying and work with children?"

After reaching the 5,000 milestone Friday, Larry said, "It's always exciting for me. Most people don't get a chance to go flying, particularly our young people. This is the thrill I get, I don't care what the number is; it's the experience the kids get."

Actually, Larry started flying young people before Young Eagles was created. In 1991 he began flying German exchange students through the local high school's German-American Partnership Program (GAPP).

"Each year I would fly the students to Crater Lake, our famous national park," Larry explained. "Each flight would be a hour and five minutes. Depending on the number of students, usually around 20 students, I would do 6-8 flights." That program continued through 2002.

His current airplane is a 1965 Cessna 182 that was completely refurbished in about four years ago. That replaced a 1956 model 182 he owned earlier. According to his logbooks, he flew approximately 3,200 kids in the old plane, 1,800 in the new one.

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