Nathan Welch loved airplanes so much as a young child that his Mom would drive him to Winchester Regional Airport just to watch small aircraft taking off and landing. When he was in 5th grade, the opportunity to participate in the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Young Eagles was available to any student
who completed the D.A.R.E program. Launched in 1992, the Young Eagles program has dedicated more than 25 years to giving youth ages 8–17 their first free ride in an airplane. Today, more than 2 million young people have enjoyed a free introductory flight through the Young Eagles program. These flights are made possible through the generosity of EAA member volunteers.
Nathan sat in the backseat of a Cessna 172 and decided then and there that he would be a pilot someday. Thankfully, his neighbor was a private pilot and offered to take him flying several times a month. His enthusiasm only grew. By the time Nathan was a sophomore in college at the University of Virginia, he finished his private pilot’s license and was working at a local flight school in exchange for flight time. After obtaining his instrument rating and then commercial, Nathan was hired as a Certified Flight Instructor in his hometown of Winchester. With Business Aviation in his sights and his undergraduate degree done, Nathan impressed a pilot working for a Charter company on the East Coast and landed a job flying private clients around the nation. Nathan also instructs new pilots as a CFI for Av-Ed in Winchester.
Nathan had a desire to use his successful flying career to give back to young adults. His experience with EAA’s Youth Eagle program taught him that early exposure to aviation can have last effects. It's not often you hear about a 22-year old wanting to “give back” for the all the good that has come their way. But that’s exactly what happened when Nathan saw an article in the local paper about STEM Flights – a non-profit organization that offers no-cost STEM & flight experiences to young people. Their goal is to inspire kids to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering & Math careers using a small airplane as a flying laboratory. Creating new pilots in the process is an important part of that goal.
Nathan was recently accepted as a Pilot Mentor for STEM Flights, a non-profit offering flight experiences combined with STEM education and career pathways. “STEM Flights is a natural follow up to Young Eagles,” Nathan explains. “More than a discovery flight, STEM Flights missions really take the student into the career possibilities that aviation and STEM offer. Mentoring youth has always been a career goal for me.”
STEM Flights Director of Development, Carley Walker, summed up her take on Nathan joining their Team; “he’s an ideal volunteer Pilot that connects easily with the kids and helps us turn their interest into a passion. Nathan knows the impact a single positive experience can make on a life choice.” Another unique feature of STEM Flights is their plan to track each student for long term career choices. Over time, they will know exactly what impact their efforts had on each STEM Flights student.