By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Northborough – Doug Stone of Northborough inherited from his late father a passion for flying and his 1948 Piper Cub, as well as an interest in helping the younger generation. He has incorporated those inheritances into one mission. Stone was honored for volunteering 25 years with the Young Eagles program at this summer’s Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) annual AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis.
Founded in 1992, the Young Eagles introduces youth ages 8 to17 to aviation by giving them their first free ride in an airplane. The young aviation enthusiasts are piloted by volunteer EAA members internationally. Since the program’s inception, 50,000 volunteer pilots have participated worldwide. Stone is one of only 14 who has volunteered for 25 consecutive years.
“My dad always wanted to give back to youth,” Stone noted. “Even though he never saw the Young Eagles program, I’m sure he would be happy to know that his plane is helping young people enjoy their first experiences of flight.”
His father, Richard Stone, owned and operated a flight school at Westboro Airport, which closed in 1977. A young Stone recalls visiting the airport frequently and developing an interest in aviation at a young age.
“When I was 11, I hitched a ride in a Piper Cub, which is what I fly now,” he said. “At 13, I started flying lessons in my dad’s plane. I got serious at 19 and got my pilot’s license when I was 21.”
When Westboro Airport closed, Stone helped his father move their hangar to Marlboro Airport. His father passed away in 1988 and Stone became owner of the 1948 Piper Cub. He also became an EAA member and active in its local Chapter 673 based at Marlboro Airport.
“This chapter took a great interest in the Young Eagles program,” he said. “Back then, the EAA had announced this program’s mission was to try to fly one million young people by the year 2003, the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ discovery of flight. Not only did they make the one million mark in 2003, but last year they passed over two million.”
On the ground, the volunteer pilots such as Stone first explain to young fliers what they can expect during the approximately 15-minute flight in a two- or four-seat plane. Once in flight, the young fliers can learn to operate the airplane because the volunteer pilot has dual controls.
“It definitely gives them the sensation of flying the plane,” Stone said.
Following the flight, they have the option of continuing aviation studies with an online flight-training course, which is free of charge.
The free flights of the Marlborough-based Young Eagles program piloted by Stone and other EAA volunteers will be relocated, noted Dudley Darling, Chapter 673 president.
“Doug deserves recognition for giving a taste of aviation to so many youngsters over the past 25 years,” Darling shared by email. “Unfortunately, Marlboro Airport is going to cease being a public airport at the end of September. After that, we will coordinate with Chapter 196 at Minute Man Air Field in Stow.”
Stone is looking forward to piloting more Young Eagles flights in his Piper Cub.
“I’ve piloted flights with pretty close to 300 kids; I’d like to hit that mark within the next year,” he said. “The program has opened a lot of doors for youth that are interested in finding out about aviation. It’s a positive experience that they can take advantage of as they search for their place in life. It’s good for the EAA because they’re looking to keep up their membership and interest in aviation. For me, I’m carrying on my dad’s legacy.”
For updates about the EAA Chapter 673 Young Eagles program, visit 673.eaachapter.org.