Hightower, T-6 kick off EAA Eagle Flights

July 25, 2012

Experimental Aircraft Association President Rod Hightower took off from Wittman Regional Airport July 24 carrying the first passenger in a program designed to introduce more adults to aviation.

Hightower took longtime Texas educator Diane Thornton for a flight over the Oshkosh, Wis., area in his T-6 Texan during EAA AirVenture for the association’s first Eagle Flight. The program, announced at AirVenture 2011, is intended to build from the success of the Young Eagles program, through which more than 1.7 million young people have received free flights from EAA members.

In an EAA video of the event, Thornton, now national director of the Learning for Life program, explained that her father had owned an airplane for business purposes when she was young, but she had only gotten to fly with him one time.

“After that, it was just always kind of a dream of mine,” she said.

Wearing a green flight suit, Thornton hoisted herself into the trainer’s cockpit. Hightower took her out over the fields of Wisconsin, returning to Phillips 66 Plaza less than an hour later, according to EAA.

The program will be led by Jeff Skiles, EAA vice president of chapters and youth education; Skiles told EAA reporting staff that it will use local mentors to help Eagle Flight participants, with plans for having a mentor at EAA headquarters in the future. Nonpilots 18 years old and up can sign up for an Eagle Flight at the Learn to Fly Discovery Center at the show. Participants will receive a six-month EAA membership.