Posted on December 21, 2012 in Uncategorized by Eagle Flight Squadron Comments Off on The Eagle Flight Squadron

By Steve Lind, Eagle Flight Chief Pilot and MAAC Director

As in the movie “Ghost Busters“, there is an old firehouse in East Orange, New Jersey with a very different organization living in it. For over a decade retired Firehouse Number 4 at the corner of Springdale and Clinton Avenues, has been occupied by Eagle Flight Squadron. Every Thursday the young cadets – 13 to 18 years old from East Orange and Newark area schools – gather for aviation ground school.

Starting at 6 PM, 20 or 30 students, all wearing O.D. nomex flight suits, begin the night with roll call and dues collection ($1 a week). They fall into formation for inspection and then begin marching and drilling practice. Over the past 38 years, older cadets have taught the new ones how to march and perform competition quality drills and routines. Cadets conduct the hour long session by themselves. Their own elected leaders command and instruct the unit to prepare for parades and competitions that they will attend later in the year. It’s amazing to watch the transformation of a new student – who literally doesn’t know right from left – to blossom just a few months later into a young leader doing the teaching and instructing.

The point of this quasi-military structure is to instill discipline and respect. Marching helps students learn to pay attention to small details, and to promptly and precisely execute complicated maneuvers and formations, all with good timing. They learn teamwork and that one individual can make the entire outfit look bad. Their uniforms must be clean and serviceable with their name tag, cadet rank, and Eagle Flight shoulder patch properly positioned. Shoes must be shined and all flight suit pockets zippered and tabs tucked.

They learn to have pride in themselves and their group. Some routines require them to stomp their feet in unison and this lets out frustration and energy. Stomping is loud but very impressive when done perfectly. Some of the marching involves turning to cardinal directions instead of facing movements. Instead of ordering “Right, Face”, the leader says, “Face, East”, or “Face, North North West”, or “Face, 220 degrees”. This teaches compass and its cardinal headings and students become spatially oriented.

A Ground School portion of the evening begins at 7 PM and lasts an hour and a half. In the classroom, adorned with real airliner seats and large model airplanes hanging from the ceiling, cadets cool off with fruit and water. The class is an open one and students are encouraged to participate and ask and answer questions. The primary objective of the instruction is not just to teach pure aviation, but to open their eyes to the world around them. It serves to make them aware of things they don’t know existed and to redirect their gave from the ground to the sky. “Look up, and be looked up to”, is the Eagle Flight Motto coined by Rev. R. White, the Founder and Commander.

The subjects taught also include the planet we all live on – a spacecraft itself hurtling around our sun at 17 miles a second – and why the weather does what it does. It’s explained that humans are like lobsters walking around on the floor of an air ocean. They learn that two-fifths of the planet is covered by land, and three-fifths is covered by water. All of it is covered by air and therefore one can go anywhere, anytime. To be able to recognize clouds and weather patterns and be able to explain to their friends what causes weather and storms gives them something very different to talk about.

These young adults know little of mechanics and engines and are taught the fundamental operations and care required to fly an air machine. All relevant laws, rules and regulations are discussed so flight is safe and legal. Cadets must also learn the phonetic alphabet, military/Zulu time, statute/nautical miles, knots and MPH, Celsius/Fahrenheit, magnetic and True North, agonic/isogonic, etc. Getting a pilot’s license is like eating a very big cake. The only way is to take a little bite every day. They learn how to learn, and how to study in order to advance in life. Eagle Flight has had so many success stories over the decades that the new students know it is possible. Many alumni return on a regular basis and are living proof that a little hard work goes a long way.

After a few classes each student can request to take the Basic written test, and, once passed, they attain “Flight Status”. A “B” grade scholastic average must be upheld to remain on flight status. Either the Squadron’s Cessna 150 or 172 is selected, depending on the size of the student. Only the compass and chart are used to navigate, no GPS. Stick and rudder skills are stressed with at least 90% of the time being spent looking through all the windows, scanning for traffic (and enjoying the view).

The main subject worked into each class is risk assessment and sound decision making. Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from poor judgment. They are taught how to gather sufficient facts with which to make a decision and how to weight options. They are taught situational awareness and use all their senses, and to then always listen to their inner voice. Problem solving by observing all the factors and thinking logically is highlighted and scenarios are discussed that make them think about the consequences of decisions and actions. Eagle Flight Squadron is the only organization like it in the country. Like most privately funded charitable organizations today, they are in dire financial straits. Anyone who would like to observe this process can come to 410 Springdale, East Orange on any Thursday night.

LET’S KEEP ‘EM FLYING!

MAAC urges you to learn more about Eagle Flight Squadron and support their efforts. http://www.eagleflightsquadron.com/

973-674-3580

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