Inspiring the Next Generation

Captain Jackie Brix puts together annual events for future aviators

“When they get off the plane, their faces are lit up and are blown away at what they just experienced. These kids grasp onto that feeling, and make a career out of it.”

Capt. Jackie Brix, CRJ-900, MSP, believes in spreading the joy and knowledge of aviation to the next generation. As President of the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) Chapter in Aitkin, Minn., Jackie plans several fundraisers throughout the year to fund their annual event, Young Eagles Day.

Young Eagles Day is free for students ages 8-17 and allows kids to experience their first flight. Brix and her team of about 30 EAA members help coordinate the day and provide the planes, pilots and fuel – all for the simple joy of seeing kids’ smiles from ear to ear.

“Kids step off of the airplane after their first flight and can almost never contain their excited chatter. We imprint the joy of flight on these kids, and they remember it forever,” Brix said.

In order to fund this inspirational day, Brix puts on two large ‘Fly-In Pancake Breakfasts,’ one in the summer and one in the winter. These fundraising events attract around 100 planes and over 2,000 people. Besides the delicious meal, there are hands-on activities and simulators for the kids to get a glance into what Young Eagles Day will entail.

“We also have bubbles, because we simply enjoy everything airborne,” Brix laughed. “They’re a hit with the kids…and adults.”

Brix and her partner, the Young Eagles Coordinator, work together side-by-side to ensure all safety protocols and schedules are in place. Brix organizes the volunteer schedules and coordinates what planes are going on display. People travel
in from a five-state radius, and come not only as a spectator, but as a participant. With every volunteer involved, the fundraising has been a success year after year.

In addition to the volunteers, private pilots fly in a variety of aircraft, including World War II planes, gyrocopters, and more.

“There’s so much that goes into this day – classic planes, classic cars, hayrides, bubbles, simulators, and the pancakes that we serve,” Brix said. “The contributors know it’s for a good cause, such as putting that money into scholarships or giving kids their first flights.”

Brix and her team know that every detail counts. Once checked into the event, every child is given their own pair of wings. Even by doing the simplest things, these events give kids their first look into the aviation world and show them “you can be a pilot, too!”

“By the time they are walking out of the gates, they are already talking about how they want to fly and do more with airplanes. We plant the seed – mission accomplished. Then they go home as junior aviators, wings and all,” Brix said.

Brix and her EAA Chapter also get involved with future aviators in their local community. They sponsor a
new program where high school students can receive their private pilot’s license, and also provide flight instructors. Once COVID-19 is under control, Brix and her team hope to fully implement the program into high schools.

“We try to get our hands out into the community so people know who we are and they have a resource to go to if they want to learn how to fly,” Brix said.