Lee Helfer, from The Villages, an Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 534 member and pilot, donated $500 to the chapter’s youth program, Squadron 534 on Oct. 10.
Donations like this keep the youth program rolling and enable the chapter to continue to teach young people about the wonders of flight and to train them to build and repair general aviation aircraft. All of this is done in the EAA Chapter 534 hangar at the Leesburg International Airport in Leesburg.
Currently, adult members and young people of the chapter are working on two aircraft that they hope will become flight training planes for a separate non-affiliated flying club that the kids can use for dual flight instruction.
Lee’s donation came about because he recently won a Federal Aviation Administration Wings Sweepstakes prize of $1,500. He believes that his local EAA chapter is on the right path by acquainting young people with general aviation and wanted to help by sharing part of the prize with them.
The Wings program is a pilot proficiency program for pilots that promotes air safety and encourages them to continue training. Those who participate earn knowledge credits, which helps promote safer flying. It can be said that earning a private pilot’s license also becomes a license for continuing aviation education.
The program is strictly voluntary, and courses can be taken on line, at meetings and, for example, as part of the EAA’s Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) club associated with local participating chapters, such as 534.
There are opportunities to demonstrate in the air what has been learned though the online courses or Wings webinars.
The balance of Lee’s award will be used to further his in-flight pilot proficiency program and aviation fuel. That means the total amount will be reinvested in general aviation.
Lee has been flying for about 45 years and accumulated 850 flight hours. He flies a Piper Arrow (PA-28-200R) out of the Leesburg airport. He has always had a strong commitment to help young people learn to fly.
At the present time, the chapter’s youth program has been on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The usual Saturday meetings for young people have been limited to a few of the teenagers who are in the middle of flight training. The chapter is providing a ground school for them under the guidance of scholarship director Gretchen Crecelius and vice president John Weber. Masks and social distancing are the order of the day in the hangar. As soon as this scourge is under control and presents no further health risk to the youth group or chapter members, regular meetings will resume.