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Couple nurtures GA's next generation
August 19, 2011
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  • 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.