Young Eagles Program helps aspiring aviators discover flight

Young Eagles Program helps aspiring aviators discover flight

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

The Young Eagles Program has dedicated more than 25 years to giving aspiring pilots their first airplane ride. 

Program Coordinator Mark Drake has been working with young aviators since 2001. 

"The smiles on the kids faces, even if they don't decide to go be a pilot, those grinning little faces when they get out of the airplane is pretty cool," he said. 

Drake has taken more than 100 young people on their first plane ride, a milestone for a coordinator. During his time as a pilot he said the industry has seen a lack of interest. He hopes the Young Eagles Program can change that. 

"It's hard for children to get access to the, to the knowledge, to the plane ride, to see if they like it, to see if they're interested," he said. "So it's nice to be able to provide that to them and maybe help them with a career path and supply pilots to an industry that's in need."

The program serves ages eight to 17. Drake teaches about the safety and principles of flight before take-off, but one in the air he said it's an indescribable feeling. 

"It's really not something you can explain to somebody how awesome flying is and the freedom we have in America to be able to do so," he said. 

Since becoming a pilot he hasn't looked back. 

"Being able to share that with people over my life has really been awesome," Drake said. 

The Young Eagles Program has flown more than two million young aviators worldwide since 1992. The program focuses more on piloting, but there are many career options from mechanics to flight attendants. 

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