Preparing the Next Generation for Flight: An Interview with I Hart Flying and EAA Chapter 43
Thursday, November 8, 2018 at 5:17PM

By Annamarie Buonocore

For many In Flight USA readers, starting a career in aviation was exciting and full of possibilities. Mostly everybody in aviation can see the benefits in choosing such a career, but many pilots and aviation enthusiasts are also aware that there is a pilot shortage. Pilots, aircraft mechanics, and air-traffic-control professionals are needed and in high demand, but some say that we are losing the younger generation. While some blame the escalating costs of flight training, there are many reasons why Millennials are hanging around too close to the ground, including lack of community outreach and STEM programs that fall short of aviation. 

Luckily, there is one hardworking organization that has partnered with another association that has given so much to the aviation community. I Hart Flying consists of a dedicated group of individuals who care about aviation, and they have partnered with EAA Chapter 43 of Denver, Colo. to make flight training a little more affordable and attainable. These groups work hard to inspire the youth of tomorrow to engage in aviation-related careers. Here at In Flight USA, we often try to bring scholarship information to young readers, and we are proud to have had the opportunity to interview Rachelle Spector of I Hart Flying, Eric Serani of EAA Chapter 43, and their dedicated PR liaison, Lyndse Costabile. 


IF: How long has the program been around, and how much have you given in scholarship funds to date? 

IH/EAA: I Hart flying is a year old now, and we just had our one-year partnership with EAA. To date, we have had three scholarship opportunities. The last one included giving two scholarships away, as we had a silent donor come in. So far, we have given away almost $20,000 in less than a year. 

IF: What are you looking for in a scholarship applicant? 

IH/EAA (Rachelle):Each scholarship is offered to various groups in various capacities, whether it’s females, various ages, different levels of licensing, and different levels of capacity. In my initial scholarship offering, I was looking for somebody like me. It was really personal. I was given the gift of flight eight years ago, and it has changed my life forever. I never thought I’d be a pilot, and now I cannot imagine myself not being one. I wanted to find somebody who was extremely goal-oriented, and regardless of any adversity he or she might have faced, I wanted to see that they set a goal, followed through, and succeeded. I wanted somebody who was selfless and ready to pass the torch. I wanted somebody who would go on to mentor, educate, and help other women succeed. 

IF: Eric, tell me a little bit about your role in this. 

IH/EAA (Eric): I am the scholarship committee chairman for EAA Chapter 43. We are a very active chapter out of Denver, more so than other chapters. There has been a lot of money donated to our chapter over the years, and one of the reason they brought me on board is that I am young. I am 30 years old, and they wanted me on board to try to connect with the younger generation. Many organizations have this problem where they have a lot of money out there for scholarships, but no one is applying, and word is not getting out. My task was to get the word out there. Then, along came Rachelle and Lyndse, and it has completely helped us. We have connections to social media, and 25 scholarship applicants for just one scholarship, which is way more than we have had in the past. We can see it is working. I am an advocate and will be in the future. These partnerships from I Hart Flying are helping many organizations. 

IF: Where is I Hart Flying based? 

IH/EAA (Rachelle): I am in Pasadena, Calif. We have an office in New Jersey, but we are everywhere. We are really trying to become a global organization. 


IF: Have you partnered with any other organizations or chapters? 

IH/EAA (Rachelle): Typically, we’ll partner with like-minded organizations. These include companies, individuals, organizations, colleges, universities, and flight schools. We don’t discriminate because we are tearing down barriers and striving toward a common goal. We need more pilots. The question is, what do we do to fill that gap? How do we fill the gender gap? So, we need exposure. We need to ignite that magic for flight. For instance, our last organization we partnered with was a flight school out of Virginia. It was a west coast/east coast showdown. We awarded scholarships to two females. We ask what can we do bring opportunities? There’s plenty to go around for everyone. It’s really just sharing these opportunities and giving these organizations exposure. It’s about finding organizations, like Eric was saying, who have scholarship dollars and need to give it away! It’s about growing together. 

IF: What do you think are some of the challenges facing general aviation today? 

IH/EAA (Lyndse): I would love to take that question. It’s not getting easier. It’s getting harder. We need 700,000 pilots over the next 20 years! Commercial airlines are increasing pay incentives to pull pilots into their companies and out of business aviation. This is why business aviation is struggling, and we’re losing about over a hundred pilots a day. We would need to train more than one or two pilots a minute just to keep up with this need. This is not just pilots. We need mechanics, flight instructors, and others to keep up with this demand. It is sad that many schools have to ground their fleets. 

IF: Eric, what are some of your personal ideas about recruiting youth into aviation? 

IH/EAA (Eric): I’m just getting my feet wet into it. The social media stuff that we have been working on with I Hart has been huge in terms of reach. We at EAA Chapter 43 are strongly involved in youth activities. We have a strong Young Eagles presence, very regular crew, and we fly about 800 youth flight. That’s pretty good for a small chapter. Out of that, we spun a youth organization called Young Aviators. We grew that very organically where it was just a couple of kids who were so excited after their first flight that they wanted to hang out and learn more about aviation, so we invited them over to our hangar where a few of us were building airplanes. We got them involved and came up with our own projects for them. That has really evolved over the last eight years. So, in terms of getting kids involved… for us it was offering that Young Eagles flight… just putting that out there. And then, when those couple kids came forward to take it to the next level, they were the ones who did. We have kids teaching kids. They are so enthusiastic about it that they want to share it with their friends, and they learn better when they do that. My general point it, those kids are out there… the ones who will ignite that fire and keep aviation going… we just need programs like Young Eagles and scholarships and to get the word out there in the first place. 

IF: Rachelle and Eric, can you tell me a little bit about your personal journey of becoming a pilot? 

IH/EAA (Eric): Sure, my grandfather had an old airplane when I was 13, and we knew an instructor through EAA who started giving me lessons. Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away before I got my license, but Chapter 43 jumped in during my training and gave me a scholarship so that I could finish my training. So, I feel a need to pay it forward and get involved with Young Eagles. I want to reward people who are going to train and keep aviation going. 

IF: Rachelle or Lyndse? 

IH/EAA (Rachelle): I will just add that when I started flying, it was completely random. A flight instructor reached out to me on Facebook and invited me to come to a free flight, and I have been flying ever since. They offered me a scholarship to do my whole training for free, and as I mentioned earlier, this introduction to aviation changed my life forever. I just fell in love with aviation and the community. I love how we all come together to share. That is why for me, paying it forward is so important. I know I have a voice, and I have the ability to share a voice for those who can’t be heard. I want to get people excited and get that excitement back for flight. This is so important for us women who are always trying to prove ourselves. What can we do to build one another up and to say, ‘if I can do it, you can do it too.’ 

IH/EAA (Lyndse): I started flight training in 2003, but I had limited resources. Then I ran out of money, stopping and starting. I was really engaged with it because I had so many mentors and family who had flown in the Air Force. I just had a love for airplanes and wanted to fly. I took a corporate route and stopped and started my training. Now we focus on women in similar situations, many of whom have stopped training to raise families. This is why we opened scholarships to all ages. We often look for those pilots who have taken a non-traditional route. 

IF: Does anyone here have someone in the industry they admire?  

IH/EAA (Rachelle): For me personally, I admire Sean Tucker. He is just so kind and genuine in his enthusiasm for aviation. It is not only compelling; it is just so exhilarating. He can talk to you, whether your a child or an adult, that man is just amazing. It’s his excitement and enthusiasm for paying things forward. More recently, I have come to admire Tammy Jo Schultz. Lyndse and I got to meet her at AirVenture, which was such a thrill. The way she handled that whole South West flight with such professionalism, that is a role model. That was such great exposure for women in aviation. She is an amazing woman who is so selfless and kind. She is really about promoting women in aviation, and that’s really important. 

IF: What advice to you have for an aspiring aviator or for those interested in the many career paths aviation has to offer? 

IH/EAA (Eric): Good advice is to seek help. Learning from my experience and stubbornness in the past, I could have taken my training a lot farther had I sought out extra scholarships or the next level of training. It is an amazing community, and everyone is willing to give you advice and direction on everything. You just have to go out, find those people, and talk to them about it. 

IF: How do you raise funds for these scholarships? 

IH/EAA (Eric): On the EAA Chapter 43 side, it’s all members that donate to the fund. We accept outside donations, but we have not had them before. If we want to bring on an outside donation, they can contact us and find information on

IH/EAA (Lyndse): At I Hart, we have different levels for sponsors to get involved. We are mainly raising money for scholarships, but we have other opportunities to get involved. We also do outreach events. Visit We are looking for scholarship support, in-kind donations, and we have all kinds of opportunities to get involved. 

IF: Does anybody have anything to add? 

IH/EAA (Rachelle):I would just like to add is that part of what we’re trying to accomplish is two organizations recruiting for scholarships. We also want to set an example to our youth that you can’t do this alone—that we have to come together as a collective group—to resolve these industry issues. If we learn to help each other and have synergy, we can accomplish this. Let’s get the support out there so that we can supply the demand. We are all on a similar mission, but there is no reason to do it alone. We need to come together and fix the issue together. 

IF: Can any of you answer how much scholarship money goes to waste every year? 

IH/EAA (Lyndse): That is a tough one. I’ll give you what I work with through various organizations. There are hundreds of thousands of dollars that go untouched every year. The reason for not awarding is that so many people do not apply. You would be surprised of how many people don’t want to apply for a scholarship because they don’t want to write an essay. This is discouraging, and it is a difficult task to get people to apply. 

Rachelle: There are so many career options, so my advice is do your research. There are options most people are not even aware of. The financial support is out there, you just have to seek it out. What is so great about the aviation community is that they want to help. 

IF: Thank you! 

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