The trend is one that has many concerned.

The number of aircraft pilots in the United States is falling, and many fear the situation will only get worse.

“Many pilots are retiring and there are not enough young pilots taking their place,” said La Grande pilot Jim Holloway.

This is why Holloway is helping lead an effort to get more young people in Northeast Oregon interested in flying. A new event, the Young Eagles Fundraiser Open House, set for Saturday, Aug. 17, is a big part of this effort.

The event will run from
8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the
La Grande Union County Airport.

The open house, which is free and open to the public, will feature:

• airplane and helicopter displays

• a flight instructor who will meet with people interested in learning how to fly

• a Life Flight Network display

• commercial aircraft displays

• airplane rides for winners of a raffle (tickets will be sold at the open house)

The money raised by the event will go to the national Young Eagles program, which gives youths between age 8 and 17 an opportunity to experience flight in a small aircraft and learn about aviation for no cost. The fundraiser, sponsored by the U.S. Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1575 and the La Grande Union County Airport, will kick off with a pancake breakfast from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Cost of the breakfast is $7 per person.

Holloway, a member of EAA Chapter 1575, encourages young people to pursue a career as a pilot because it pays well and flight instruction training is becoming easier to receive. Many commercial pilots now earn between $70,000 and $100,000 a year, and many airlines are now covering the cost of pilot training, which can be at least $45,000.

It used to be that pilots had to pay for all of their training.

“I had to pay all of my training expenses out of pocket,” said Tim McCoy, a member of EAA Chapter 1575 who earlier flew as a contractor for the U.S. Forest Service.

Holloway hopes the open house will inspire more people to begin pursuing flying as an avocation. He said that many people perceive being a pilot as something only rich people can do.

“That is a myth,” Holloway said.

He explained that flying is now more affordable than it has ever been. He said that many good used planes are available at low prices because many older pilots are getting out of flying and selling their aircraft.

“The average used plane is about $35,000. People pay almost as much for their cars,” Holloway said.

Holloway said it costs about twice as much for fuel in a small plane as it would in a car to travel the same distance, but the tradeoff is that you get to your destination twice as fast.

For additional information about the Young Eagles open house, send an email to bluemtchapter1575@yahoo.com .

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