A Brief History of
410 Springdale Ave.
East Orange, NJ 07017
(973) 674-3580

Photo by Marko Georgiev from the Newark Star Ledger, August 18, 2005

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 shoulders.

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 county airports.

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 training.

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 self-discipline.

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 wouldn’t have a pilot license. I’m so grateful for the wisdom he’s 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 Joseph Hayes.

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 professional fields.

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.

Back to Interactive Timeline of East Orange History - 1975

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