August 17, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
looks on the faces of Richard Largent’s young passengers tell him how to
prepare them for introductory flights in his Cessna 172.
doing something without their parents. For a lot of them, it’s a big step,” he
he opens with a magic trick: He’ll make a butterfly disappear.
end up asking the first question before we get going: ‘Are there butterflies in
the airplane here?’ Soon they will be gone, and I’m seeing smiles,'” he said.
has given Largent the touch for providing fun intro flights and exchanging
lepidoptera for smiles. He has given rides to more than 1,000 youngsters under
the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program
as an EAA member since 1996.
is part of a team whose other member is his wife, Ginny, who organizes aviation
events and coordinates activities for two EAA chapters, including one the
Largents helped restore to vitality in North Carolina. They know that the
impact of their mentoring and volunteerism goes well beyond igniting a
youngster’s interest in aviation.
come away with a new understanding of general aviation airports and the
community that inhabits them.
we chat with parents, we make folks understand that the general aviation
airport is paid for by their tax dollarsÑit’s their airport,” Largent said. He
and Ginny tell them, “It’s your right to come out and enjoy it.”
that light bulb goes off, the Largents make sure that the parents who bring
their kids out to the airport also understand that the airplane ride “is a gift
from the pilots.”
That has a big impact.
are amazed that people would do that for their child,” Ginny said.
may observe another lasting effect of the flight. The Largents said they get
emails from parents on how meaningful the occasion had been for their child,
with many parents commenting that their youngsters seem more independent and
motivated as a result of having gone off on the aviation adventure.
realize that they have choices,” Largent said. “We’d love it to be aviation,
but it helps them out in other aspects of their lives as well.”
Largents’ nurturing of the future of GA earned them the 2011 Phillips 66
Aviation Leadership Award, presented during the annual Young Eagles banquet at
AirVenture 2011 in Oshkosh, Wis. They “embody and put into action everything
that Young Eagles stands for,” said Rosemary Leone, ConocoPhillips director of
GA programs. Phillips 66 Aviation’s Young Eagles Rebate program
provides $1 per gallon rebates for Young Eagles flights.
award presentation was attended by Young Eagles Co-Chairmen Chesley
Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles, the crew of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 that landed
in the Hudson River after striking geese on climbout from New York City’s
LaGuardia Airport in 2009.
the banquet, Largent was recognized for having flown a total of 1,025
passengers under the Young Eagles program. Ginny was cited as “the backbone of
Young Eagle events for EAA Chapter 186 in northern Virginia,” and for
organizing and managing events at four area airports, and working with the Drug
Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program in cooperation with Frederick County,
Md., law enforcement and schools. She also administers scholarship funds, and
recruits pilots and volunteers, and provides support for open houses, EAA
chapter fly-ins, and airport visits by home-school classes, and Scout groups.
Largents also made their Cessna 172 available to an aspiring pilot for flight
training. In exchange, the future pilot helps with aircraft care and chapter
said he had always “been infatuated with airplanes,” but didn’t have vision
good enough to make a bid for an airline career. He traded in that idea for
flight time with a friend who had become a pilot in a Cessna 150Ñearning his
own pilot certificate in his late 30s. He “stepped up” to a Cessna 172, and
soon after became an EAA member. “Ginny stepped up, and we said ‘Let’s be a
team and do this,'” he said.
they are contributing their efforts through EAA programs, or working in other
aviation forums, the Largents can be found “out there trying to educate about
aviation” at schools, fairs, and aviation events in the Washington,
D.C.-northern Virginia-Maryland area.
urged pilots interested in giving introductory airplane rides not to wait for
an organized event, if they know a prospective passenger is interested. They
also encouraged pilots to make use of the Phillips 66 Aviation Young Eagles
Rebate program as one of the resources that will help keep GA growing.
are accepting the idea that this is the next generation of aviation
professionals,” Largent said.