ROME, Ga. -- Education is soaring to new heights as the Tiger Flight Foundation is teaching children to set goals and to take a more active approach in controlling their own life.
Classroom sessions and flights by several tiger striped aircraft are inspiring preteens and teenagers from Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama to find specific ways to work harder to better themselves.
"Leading the young to the dream of flight" is the foundation's quest as the nonprofit organization steers young adults in becoming successful individuals and become "Pilot in command of their own lives".
Based at the Richard B. Russell Airport near Rome, Tiger Flight's roots began thirteen years ago as two metro Atlanta pilots looked to form a civilian flight team. The foundation has since grown to include a Formation Flight Team, an education workshop and an aviation museum which will soon open inside a World War II hanger at the airport.
"We began in 2001 and the main purpose of Tiger Flight is really motivation helping boys and girls to become pilots in command of their own lives," explains Robert Young, the foundation's Chairman of the Board. "We use the airplanes as our flying ambassadors to get them up in the airplane and to give them enthusiasm and excitement."
The non-profit organization expanded from being a stand alone flight team to begin including discussions to motivate preteens and teens to take charge of their lives in 2004.
"Taking responsibility, believing in themselves, setting goals, measuring their results, putting a plan together," states Tiger Flight pilot Phil "Sunny" Cataldo who realized the concept of adding the educational resource. "Suddenly, Tiger Flight became a children's motivational program along with being a formation flight team."
Tiger Flight produced a children’s motivational book based on aviation, Jake and the Tiger Flight, available on their web site at www.tigerflight.org, and through Barns and Noble. Sunny says to look for it in the near future as an e-book.
During an October visit, this aerospace reporter arrived at Russell Airport in time to see three orange with black tiger stripes Alon A-2 Aircoupes aircraft soar across the blue morning sky.
On board each aircraft is a young adult interested in the possibility of becoming a pilot, or working as a student with the goal of an aviation career.
Jamie, a seventh grader who lives in Rome, flew for the first time through Tiger Flight and was fascinated by the experience and sights below, "I saw from the power plant below over to Alabama while I was up there."
Jamie was one of sixteen young adults who flew that day, and added that he had an incredible flight and would love to fly again.
Young adds that several of the pilots visit classrooms across metro Atlanta as they give their Pilot in Command motivational talk to inspire children new to aviation.
The flight team is now preparing for their annual participation in October's Wings over North Georgia air show based at their home airfield.
For 2013, the airshow will be held over October 12 and 13.
The Tiger pilots are now focused on their next air show flight which will see them soar overhead in the Missing Man Formation for the national anthem on both days.
"We do several air shows a year, and we invite the public to come up here," Sunny states. "We will have a routine as we perform a few passes over the airfield."
Sunny and his team will be poised next to their aircraft this weekend to talk one-on-one with the public about the foundation, and to answer questions about their formation flying.
The pilots volunteer their time and their airplanes to Tiger Flight in support of the foundation, and Sunny adds that none of the money raised goes toward the aircraft but toward the education they provide.
To learn more about joining Tiger Flight visit TigerFlight.org.
(Charles Atkeison reports on aerospace, science and technology. Follow his updates via Twitter @AbsolutSpaceGuy and on Instagram @BlueAngels_7.)