No driver’s license needed for students in Young Eagles Club

Kaelyn Rodrigues | Staff Writer

While other students are studying to get their driver’s licenses, members of the Young Eagles Club are taking a more unconventional approach to travel.

The club aims to involve students in aviation and get them started in the process to acquire their private pilot’s licenses. Influenced by the Aviation Club’s interest in aeronautics, geometry teacher Mark McCormick started the Young Eagles Club this year to help students further explore their interest in air travel.

“The Young Eagles Club started with the idea that we can offer students an opportunity to work on the ground school portion of their private pilot’s license,” McCormick said. “The Young Eagles Organization promotes aviation in any way they can. They developed this program, and here at Mason we’re tapping into the resources that are out there.” 

McCormick said he started the Young Eagles Club because he was inspired by the Aviation Club to offer students an opportunity to get experience in the field of air travel.

“We started the Young Eagles group as an offshoot of the Aviation Club,” McCormick said. “We picked up off their interest in aviation and found that this program was available.”

Junior Sophia Palermo, a student leader of the Aviation Club and member of the Young Eagles Club, said the two clubs are intertwined because of their similar interest.

“Young Eagles is about getting your pilot’s license,” Palermo said. “It’s a cheaper, more affordable way. We kind of merged together with them. A lot of people from the Aviation Club are also joining the Young Eagles because we want to get our pilot’s licenses as well.”

In order to get your pilot’s license, Palermo said, you have to get hours of flight time, which can be expensive for a high school student.

“A big thing with getting your pilot’s license is obtaining hours of fly time and figuring out a cheap way to do that because you have to pay someone to take you up in an airplane,” Palermo said. “For our first flight, someone at a local airport took all of us up.”

Through the organization, McCormick is able to offer students a Young Eagle introductory flight at a local airport, beginning the private pilot’s license process. After the flight, students must complete an online program and an exam with an assessor to get their license.

“The official Young Eagle flight kind of starts the process,” McCormick said. “It opens up a door to get the free online course that they’ll need to do their ground school, which is basically half of what you need to do to become a pilot. The second part is a practical test.  This part is done once a student pilot logs enough flight hours and can demonstrate to a designated examiner that they can properly maneuver a plane and function in the airspace system.”


Fight instructor Al Fullerton teaches senior Dhruv Mistry how to properly prepare a plane for takeoff.


Junior Mullika Pandit is also an Aviation Club student leader and Young Eagles Club member. Pandit said that although she is unsure about whether or not she wants to become a pilot, she was interested in the license aspect of the Young Eagles Club when she heard about it at the beginning of this year.

“It’s much smaller and more specific for kids who want to get their licenses,” Pandit said. “I’m not 100% sure if that’s the route I want to take. I’d rather go into the engineering side of it, but I thought the club was really interesting because it helps give kids a place to start if they’re really interested. The (Aviation) club is about directing kids to places to start if they want to pursue a specific field of aviation and the (Young Eagles) club is a great example of that.”

Although becoming a pilot might not be the most common career choice, McCormick said there will be a need for them in coming years.

“I’d like to get more students interested in aviation,” McCormick said. “Both at the industry and government level, there is a strong understanding that a pilot shortage is in the near future. Airlines and cargo companies are wondering where they are going to find them.”


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Photos by Ryan D’Souza.