By George Stephens
Information Advisory Committe (IAC) Member
When I first contacted Arlene Wohlgemuth to write this month’s article, I was told to meet her Saturday morning at the Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport (KTRM). She wanted me to observe her and her fellow Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) club members conduct a Young Eagles rally. EAA members are committed to encouraging more young people to become pilots because of the acute shortage of pilots in every facet of aviation. The opportunities for well-paying careers is wide open, and EAA members want to help Coachella Valley youth take advantage of the opportunities. The EAA club sponsors free flights during the season at the Thermal airport for interested students.
At the rally I attended were 15 students ranging from 12 to 17 years old from Desert Mirage High School. They were paired with an experienced pilot, given a briefing, walked around the plane for a safety check, and then boarded their respective planes for an exciting flight. After completing the Young Eagle flight, the students are qualified for a free ground-school training program valued at $200. This was the first flight for most of the students, and their obvious excitement was very rewarding for the pilots who participated.
Arlene requested that I make this article about the young people in the program sponsored by EAA. The Young Eagles program was launched in 1992 and currently more than 2 million students have enjoyed the free introductory flight through this program. But I couldn’t write about the Young Eagles without also writing about the fascinating woman pilot in our community.
Arlene jokingly says her childhood ambition was to be a newer version of Annie Oakley, someone who is in charge of her own destiny and motivated. She said she has all of that because she decided to become a pilot and flight instructor at the Fort Lewis Army Flying Club in Washington State 47 years ago.
She and her husband, Mikeal, have been married 51 years and moved to Shadow Hills two years ago to be near their two children and grandchildren. They picked their home based solely on FaceTime recommendations from their daughters, who along with a realtor, showed Arlene and Mikeal the house on their iPhone. They moved here from Texas. That’s pretty obvious when you hear Arlene’s gentle Texas accent.
Arlene chairs the local Ninety-Nines Chapter, which is an all-women aviation club started by Amelia Earhart in 1929. The club was named the Ninety-Nines to honor the 99 licensed women pilots who signed up at the time to start the club. Prior to retirement, Arlene was a Texas State Representative and then the Executive Director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
She continues to be an active pilot. Her next event will be the Havasu 600 Air Race that starts at the French Valley Airport in Murietta, California, with Arizona stops in Sun Valley, Cottonwood, Tucson, and finally Lake Havasu. She also is learning to play Mah Jongg with neighbors in her spare time and hopes to again participate with Needles and Pins. She and Mikeal hike and ride their bikes, and enjoy the safety within Shadow Hills.
Residents are encouraged to suggest candidates for the Sun City Shadow Hills website’s human interest stories. The Information Advisory Committee is inclusive for all residents in Shadow Hills. You may make your suggestions directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.