Thursday, September 28, 2023

Taking off with Youth Aeronautics Educational Foundation [Free Read]

Samuel and Marilyn Billings, founders of YAEF

Samuel Billings founded the Youth Aeronautics Educational Foundation (YAEF) with no formal training in aviation, with his wife Marilyn. Samuel possessed a longtime fascination with airplanes and a strong desire to educate underserved youth about their career potential and possibilities.

Today, YAEF operates as a non-profit organization with a mission to expose youth to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by providing hands-on training in aviation and beyond.

YAEF conducted its first ground school in 2008, teaching a group of five students about the fundamentals of flight. At the conclusion of the program, the students wanted more – in fact, they wanted to learn how to fly.

“That is when the program really took off,” Samuel says.

YAEF’s youngest students use hands-on activities to learn about airplane parts and how planes fly

YAEF serves a range of age groups and interests, starting with its head start introductory program for students ages 9-13. In this class, they learn about airplanes and parts, how planes fly, pilot language and visit a local airport.

From there, students can enter YAEF’s pawns program, symbolically named after the chess piece to help students “move forward” in their aviation education. As part of the pawns program, students learn more about aviation history, aerodynamics and participate in hands-on programs.

Some students also participate in YAEF’s drone program, where they learn more about how drones work and are learning hands on about drones, by building a medical drone designed to deliver prescriptions throughout the community.

Students age 15 and older can participate in YAEF’s flight program. The program teaches students the fundamentals of flight, how to interpret weather data and exposes them to a range of aeronautical careers. The flight program prepares students for the FAA written knowledge exam, required for a student to obtain their private pilot’s license.

YAEF’s build-a-plane program inspires youth to think about a career path in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM).

YAEF also offers a build a plane program, designed to pique interest in aviation maintenance careers. Students in the class work on a Van’s model RV7 aircraft, gaining real-world application and know-how.

The impact YAEF has had on underserved youth in Williamsburg, Newport News and beyond is undeniable. So far, nineteen students have gone on to receive their private pilot’s license, and many others have gone on to have careers in aviation – including one graduate who flies an F16 fighter jet, and another who is a first lieutenant and pilot instructor for the Air Force.

Many graduates of YAEF have gone on to careers in aviation.

In 2019 Samuel, and his wife Marilyn, were recipients of the Crown Circle National Award, a prestigious honor that recognizes outstanding work in aviation education. YAEF recently expanded its reach by offering a new ground school in Newport News.

“This program would not work without our volunteers and generous contributions from organizations” said Mr. Billings.

To learn more about YAEF, call 908-397-9059 or visit

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Williamsburg Community Foundation is proud to support Youth Aeronautics Educational Foundation, and many other organizations that improve the quality of life for local residents. Thanks to hundreds of local people like you, the Foundation has awarded over $6.8 million in grants and scholarships combined since 1999. Learn more about how you can apply for a grant or scholarship, or how the Foundation can help you make a difference through philanthropy HERE

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