The scene of the Martin Family relaxing Wednesday morning next tor their just-restored 1946 Fairchild, is captivating for more than one reason. A young family camping at Sun ‘n Fun next to an antique airplane they flew nine hours from Pennsylvania to be at this year’s fly-in speaks volumes in that it is exactly what general aviation needs to see more of to remain healthy.
Jonathan Martin, who spent 5,000 hours of the last four years restoring this beautiful antique, has made fostering a love for aviation in today’s youth a mission that goes beyond his family. He founded and runs the Future Aviators Summer Camp out of the airport he manages, New Garden Flying Field in Toughkenamon, Pennsylvania.
“If you look around, today’s pilots are getting older and older,” he says matter-of-factly. “We need to keep general aviation alive by getting youth involved.”
In its fourth year, the day camp for 8 to 15 year olds has expanded from one-week long to two weeks and Martin’s goal is to beat last year’s record attendance of 60 campers by at least 40. The program includes introductory flights, personalized logbooks for each camper with the flight time entered, hot air balloon rides and a field trip to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
The results of Martin’s program are starting to show. He soloed 2 of his first-year campers in January, the month of their 16th birthdays.
If you were to guess that Jonathan and his wife Rachael have high hopes for their own kids to carry on their love for general aviation, you’d be right (jokingly, Jonathan says they don’t have a choice but to be involved). Six-year-old J.J. can already hold altitude and turn to headings his dad calls out and, for the moment, his four-year-old sister Alyssa is happy to go along for the ride.
“Once J.J. can reach the rudder pedals, he’ll be able to do it all,” beams mom Rachael.
And in 40 years, maybe there will be not just two but three generations of Martins sitting under the wing of a newly restored antique at Sun ‘n Fun. We can only hope.