Stories about expansions are often full of details but miss out on the larger meaning. When the EAA announced a couple of days ago that it was embarking on a project to add square footage to the already impressive footprint of its museum, the meaning, in many stories, got buried beneath the details.
The big thing is this. EAA, which has been engaging in outreach to the aviation community in every segment imaginable, is expanding its programs to help create new pathways for young people to get deeply involved in aviation.
As you no doubt know, EAA has for more than 20 years now conducted its Young Eagles program, whereby members give Young Eagles rides in small planes to young people across the country. Its members have flown more than two million such flights, each one of them giving a young person the chance to get a feel for what flying is really like.
The problem is, that’s one relatively short connection, and there’s no telling how impactful it will be, though I’ve long argued that even if the young person doesn’t got into a life of flying after their flight, EAA has created more than two million likely lifelong friends of aviation, and that benefits all of us for decades to come.
The new project, dubbed the Project 21 Initiative, will be a two-story, 30,000-square foot facility that will be connected to the EAA Aviation Museum. The building will house aviation education and training.
Jack Pelton, EAA president and chairman of the board, summed it up nicely. “While the EAA Aviation Museum highlights more than a century of accomplishments in personal flight, a major part of EAA’s mission to grow participation in aviation is to offer high-level programming for current and future pilots, Project 21 brings that vision to reality, and further strengthens Oshkosh as the home for those who pursue their dreams of flight.”
The facility will house the EAA Pilot Proficiency Center, which for years now has existed as a weeklong tent-based program during AirVenture. With the establishment of a physical year-round center, programming can be held 12 months a year.
Another part of the project is the Youth Education Center, which will bring programs to young people, their parents and educators, giving them the chance to take part in hands-on aviation activities.
Groundbreaking on the new $6.2 million facility took place on Monday (April 26, 2021) and kicks off an aggressive construction project that has the goal of a grand opening at Oshkosh AirVenture 2022.
We can’t wait to see it.