Photo by Marko Georgiev from the Newark Star Ledger, August 18,
In 1975, Rev. Russell White, a truant officer for the East
Orange, NJ School System, noticed a group of students cutting
school. He approached the group and explained the importance of
education in obtaining goals in life. He asked them what they
intended to do with their lives and they shrugged their
At that moment, a plane flew overhead. Rev. White pointed up to
the plane and said, You can even become a pilot. This
sparked an interest in the wide-eyed teens and Rev. White offered
to have them go for an airplane ride at one of New Jersey's
With the approval of the Board of Education, Rev. White started
an after school program in the basement of Bethel Baptist Church
in Orange, NJ. The teens on the corner that day all went on to
complete Eagle Flight s Youth in Aviation
program and obtain careers in the aviation field.
Eagle Flight became a non-profit corporation, which is funded by
grants, contributions, fundraisers, and volunteers.
Today, Eagle Flight Squadron, Inc. is housed in an old firehouse
in East Orange, NJ. There is plenty of room for their operation.
There is a classroom, meeting room, movie/auditorium room, three
offices, and a large area for the drill team to practice.
Annually, there are about forty students, ages 13 thru 18, in
flight training. The curriculum provides ground school classes,
in-flight training at Essex County Airport, and preparation
sessions for the Federal Aviation Administration Exam, which is
required for obtaining a Private Pilot License. The program also
includes aviation related field trips and its annual week long
ACE Camp program at Daniel
Webster College in Nashua, NH.
October 2008 Photo by Frederick Goode of the Historical Society
of East Orange, Inc.
The organization presently owns three aircraft; a Cessna 172,
Cessna 152-11, and Cessna 150 which are used for in-flight
As much the cadets love aviation, the program drives home a
bigger point to participants and their peers - if young people
exercise discipline and apply themselves, their potential is
limitless. Every student, ages 13 through 18, has to earn a place
in the Program with good grades (B or above average) and
Under the guidance of highly skilled certified flight
instructors, students receive their pilot licenses after
completing the in-flight training and passing FAA exam, usually
at age 17.
Eagle Flight students and former students have many success
stories to tell. Eagle Flight's Youth in Aviation
program has received media attention and awards many times.
Reverend White was inducted into the Teterboro Aviation Hall of
Fame for his Eagle Flight Squadron work.
One former student, Joseph Hayes, whose story was featured in The
Star Ledger in 1999, tells of how his boyhood dream was fulfilled
by attending Eagle Flight Squadron. He stated, Because of
my involvement in the Program, I am particularly indebted to Rev.
White. Without him, I wouldnt have a pilot license.
Im so grateful for the wisdom hes passed on by
emphasizing to study as well as never lowering your sights in a
society where race sometimes puts you at a disadvantage.
October 2008 Photo by Rasheem Franklin for the Historical Society
of East Orange, Inc. L-R: Rev. Russell White, First Officer
Mr. Hayes, former Captain of US Airways is currently a First
Officer of Continental Airline. Other former students have also
gone on to become pilots of major airlines and work in other
To date, more than 3000 students have successfully completed the
Eagle Flight program, with the vast majority having been accepted
into the Naval and Air Force Academies, aviation schools,
colleges, and universities. A broad cross-section of the
graduates has gone on to become commercial pilots, aviation
engineers, navigators, and military officers.