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Coming Full Circle: Young Eagle Turns Into CFI


Justin McBurney and Tom Gummo
Justin McBurney, left, stands next to Tom Gummo and his Harmon Rocket II that McBurney took his Young Eagles flight in at age 10. Now 18, McBurney is a CFI and gives Young Eagles flights in Apple Valley, California

August 21, 2013 - On December 4, 2004, 10-year-old Justin McBurney, EAA 828204, of Apple Valley, California, hopped in a Harmon Rocket II piloted by Tom Gummo, EAA 321966, to take a Young Eagles flight. On July 9, only 8 1/2 years later, McBurney passed his CFI checkride and has been teaching since.

"I remember my first flight," McBurney said. "Tom took me up in his Harmon Rocket and it was like a rollercoaster ride the whole time. When we landed I had a huge smile on my face and all I wanted to do after that was fly."

And fly he has.

Since the Young Eagles flight, McBurney has completely engulfed himself in aviation. Now, at only 18, McBurney holds a commercial certificate with instrument rating and is a CFI and advanced and instrument ground instructor for single-engine aircraft. He is also a sophomore at Embry-Riddle's Prescott, Arizona, campus, where he is studying aerospace engineering.

McBurney's love and passion for aviation also sparked a similar love for his family.

"What a tribute to the wonders of the Young Eagles program," said McBurney's mother, Jeneace. "[The program] got our entire family into aviation. My husband is also a flight instructor now (CFI, CFII, land and sea, multi), and I hold my private pilot's rating."

McBurney does not forget what ignited his love for aviation and makes it a point to fly Young Eagles whenever he is home and local EAA Chapter 768 is participating in the program.

"Young Eagles is absolutely great," McBurney said. "I will always fly them when I get the chance."

After graduation, McBurney hopes to combine his aerospace engineering education with his years of flight experience and become a project test pilot. On July 24, McBurney had his first student, a helicopter pilot pursuing a fixed-wing add-on, pass the checkride.


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