Jerad Lewark, 11, dreams of flying.
To help him reach his goal of getting his pilot's license when he's 16, the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association has given him a scholarship to attend the EAA Air Academy at the EAA Aviation Center in Oshkosh, Wisc., next month.
Ernie Kelly, president of EAA Chapter 677, said every chapter is awarded points for its Young Eagles program by the national center that can be redeemed for admission to an Air Academy camp. Young Eagles is a program where EAA pilots fly children, ages 8-17, free once a month.
In 2011, Chapter 677 flew 248 children, which allowed for a full scholarship for Jerad. The camp costs $690 for a week. The Calvary Christian School sixth-grader will be going July 5-9.
It will be a summer of firsts for Jerad, including his first commercial flight and his first time away from his family.
This camp is for children ages 12-13. Jerad won't be 12 until December, but Kelly said the national EAA agreed that his dedication and passion for aviation and his maturity was enough to get him in early.
In fact, Kelly said he sees Jerad and one of his parents at the airport often. "They are there more often than the pilots," he said.
"Jerad has a great attitude and he's patient," Kelly said. "It doesn't bother him if he can't fly because there are so many kids. He's done it before. It doesn't bother him if he can't sit in the front seat because he's done it before. He just likes to fly."
Young would-be pilots need to be 12 before starting flying lessons, though Jerad has already begun the online segment of the lessons. Youngsters need to be 15 before getting something like an aviation equivalent to a driver's permit and 16 before receiving a pilot's license and flying solo.
Kelly joked that he'll see Jerad at the airport on his birthday, getting ready for his first solo flight.
"He's the kind of kid that won't let anything stand in his way" of getting his pilot's license, Kelly said. "He's much more focused (at his age) than I was."
How Jerad got started
He was about four when he really became interested in playing with airplanes. But even when he was about 2-years-old, if he heard a plane, "he would pitch a fit" until someone took him outside so he could watch the plane's progress, his father, Jerry Lewark said.
Going to the 2011 Thunder in the Valley air show made Jerad determined to become a pilot.
His first step was to getting his parents to bring him to the Columbus Metropolitan Airport once a month for that free Young Eagles flight.
Jerad became a regular at Flightways Columbus, where the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) holds its Young Eagles program. It's scheduled for the last Saturday of each month, barring bad weather.
Jerad has set his sights on becoming a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot.
His parents, Jerry and Tracy -- a financial representative and radioloy technologist, respectively -- bring him almost every month. He's among the first to arrive and by 10 a.m., he's usually on his way home.
It'll cost about $4,000-$6,000 for lessons, books and videos, airplane rental and fuel to get his pilot's license.
Jerad laughs when he's asked if he'll have to start working to pay for his license.
Fortunately for his parents, Aaron, his 8-year-old brother, isn't interested in airplanes like his big brother. Jerry, though, is interested in becoming a pilot, but he says he'll wait until Jerad achieves his dream.
"I enjoy it," Jerry said of aviation. "Most of my money is going to where he (Jerad) wants to do. I'm taking care of him first.
"The scholarship is a gift from God and the EAA chapter here. We're really grateful. "
The EAA Air Academy
There's another goal in going to the Air Academy -- Jerad is hoping to earn his Boy Scout merit badge in aviation.
At the Air Academy, Jerad said he wants to "learn more about planes and the fundamentals of flying. I have a lot of dreams."
He'll be in a lodge built just for the academy, living with about 49 other children from around the country. There will be four boys or four girls in each room.
Jerad will not be unsupervised at any time, which alleviates any worries Jerry and Tracy had.