So, you want to learn how to fly?

Harris Hill Soaring Club, Elmira NY Photo by Brady Lane, EAA. October, 2013.

Photo by Brady Lane, EAA.

Hill Soaring has taught hundreds of teens ages 14 and up to fly.  As a Junior member, you are part of an aviation program that is truly unique and offers you the opportunity to learn how to fly an aircraft, starting as young as age 14. In any given year, about 150 student pilot licenses are issued to 14 and 15 year olds by the FAA. Being a Junior soaring pilot is truly unique.

Learning to fly an aircraft is great fun but it is also serious business. It requires skill, education, persistence and time to become a pilot in our Junior program. Harris Hill Soaring Corporation’s (HHSC) members believe that teaching young adults to fly is so important that we subsidize each flight a Junior member makes. There is no less expensive way and no better location to learn how to become a pilot. In exchange, HHSC requires much of its Junior members. Make no mistake, you may not pay the full cost of your training, but you will earn every bit of it.

If you do, flying is only part of what you will learn as a Harris Hill Junior. You will become a member of one of the premier clubs in U.S. soaring, in the soaring capital of America, working alongside others who share a passion for soaring flight.

However, being a Junior member at HHSC is not for everyone. You must ask yourself if you have the persistence to devote the time and the effort over a multi‐ year period to earn your pilot’s license. The information below is intended to help you understand the type of commitment necessary to be a Harris Hill Junior.

Things you should know before deciding to become a Junior member

  1. Your safety is the most important thing to us. Harris Hill instructors have safely taught hundreds of Juniors how to fly and many of our instructors were Juniors themselves. They, along with our senior members, will use their experience and judgment to keep you safe in the air and on the flight line. You must listen and respect their judgment or you will not continue as a Junior member.
  2. Harris Hill Soaring Club, Elmira NY Photo by Brady Lane, EAA. October, 2013.

    Photo by Brady Lane, EAA.

    HHSC is not a flight school. It is a club. There are no paid staff at Harris Hill. We are all volunteers who love the sport of soaring and enjoy flying with others who enjoy it as well. If you simply want to learn to fly in just a few months, HHSC is not for you. While HHSC offers instruction to our Junior members, you are joining a club, not contracting with a flight school for training. Therefore, participation in the club is a must to make progress towards your license. That means helping out on the flight line, assembling gliders, staffing our fund raising picnics, helping to wash, buff, and wax gliders and more.

  3. There is no charge for flight instruction but you will work in exchange for flight training. All HHSC members, including Juniors must work at least one four hour weekend duty shift per month, sometimes two. HHSC sells glider rides to the public and uses the money to keep club dues low and help subsidize Junior training. We earn that money on weekends April through October and all club members ‐ senior members included, are required to work one and sometimes two duty shifts each month, to keep the operation running during those weekends. Juniors work alongside seniors, usually on line duty helping to launch and retrieve gliders. This duty requirement is absolutely essential and no showing a shift is serious. Three no shows over a soaring season results in termination of your Junior membership. You are also expected to attend all Junior soaring meetings or have a valid excuse for not attending.
  4. Glider6.mpeg_snapshot_00.00_[2014.07.06_21.42.23]The time commitment to become a pilot in our Junior program is substantial. Typically, you will not be able to solo in your first season. That means you will be a Junior for at least two years until you are ready to take your private pilot flight exam. If you are already scheduled for multiple activities over the course of the year ‐particularly in the Spring and Summer, such as soccer, basketball, wrestling, track and so forth, you will find it difficult to be at Harris Hill and your progress towards a license will suffer. We have a number of juniors who never progress to earn their license. We also have plenty of Juniors who manage to balance their activities and flying and earn their licenses. It will be up to you to devote the time necessary to earn your license.
  5. You will need to spend a lot of time at Harris Hill to make progress. For Juniors without a driver’s license, that means the parents must shuttle them up to Harris Hill, drop them off and return to retrieve them. The weather changes, the tow planes break, the instructors aren’t always available. It’s the unfortunate nature of an all‐volunteer operation that you may come up to Harris Hill wanting to fly, work a few hours, and then go home without a flight.
  6. You are required to work 4 hours for each instructional flight. Juniors fly for a reduced rate, but they end up working for their instruction in other ways. They work the flight line, help members assemble their aircraft, clean the flight center, take out garbage, clean restrooms, and help during contests and special events. Juniors are asked to do anything and everything necessary to keep the operation running. In addition, we usually only do fundraising activities in conjunction with special events such as contests. You are expected to participate in these activities.
  7. IMG_0443You will have to study to become a private pilot. You must pass a very difficult 60 question written test administered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as well as a practical test with an FAA examiner who will subject you to an oral quiz and require several flights with you before awarding you a private pilot’s license. Juniors rarely have trouble passing the flight test, but you will have to study on your own over a period of months to pass the written and oral tests.
  8. You will experience frustration. Your progress will come in fits and starts. The more frequently you fly, the more progress you will make. Some days you may want to fly but no instructor is available. Other days, the weather will turn bad or too many other students will be in line ahead of you. Persistence and time are required and many of the disappointments you experience may hold lessons for the future.

That sounds like a lot of requirements and a lot of work. Why would anyone want to dedicate the time and effort to be a Harris Hill Junior?

  • You are in a club that shares a passion for flight. We exist because we love to fly.  Every member is interested in soaring flight and that shared passion makes the Junior’s organization different from anything you have experienced in your high school life. Non‐pilots simply don’t understand the magic and beauty of flight but HHSC club members and your fellow Juniors do. We are all united by the shared goal of soaring flight and the HHSC organization.
  • Altimeter_2Harris Hill is one of the most famous and well‐known soaring clubs in the world. Harris Hill is the capital of soaring in America and many of our members are world ranked soaring pilots. Some have 50 years or more of soaring flight experience. You will not only meet and interact with them on a peer level, they will often take you for a flight with them where you will experience flight with true masters of the soaring world.
  • This is an opportunity to build something all your own.  We will be there with you every step of the way, but your progress will be determined by YOU.  As a new pilot, if you progress satisfactorily, you will eventually fly solo. That means you will fly HHSC’s gliders by yourself. Alone. While the FAA allows you to do this as early as age 14 ‐before you can even get a driver’s license, we will not let you fly solo until you have gained our trust and confidence. We must be sure you will act with the maturity and judgment to keep yourself safe and protect the club’s aircraft. As you build experience and demonstrate your abilities, the club’s trust in you will grow and new responsibilities will be available to you. Building the reputation as an experienced and trusted club member gives our Juniors confidence for post high-school life.
  • Placard1You will learn many skills that have nothing to do with flying and everything to do with success in your adult life. You will interact with adults on a peer level. As you progress, you will have more experience than some of our new adult members and may end up showing them how things work. You will become familiar with the club members, some of who are professional air transport pilots or aviation business owners. Many of them used to be HHSC Juniors, care very much about the program and want you to succeed. They can be an excellent source of connections, recommendation letters for college, and career advice.
  • You will learn self‐reliance and decision‐making. Pilots must be very knowledgeable about meteorology, science, and the technical details of aircraft systems and Federal Aviation Administration regulations. They must also be decisive when faced with aviation decisions. Whether you become a pilot or not, learning to fly will serve you well in your adult life.
  • You will demonstrate the ability to accomplish a difficult task and stick with it over time. Becoming a pilot is very hard work, requiring flight skill, intense study, and the persistence to stick with it until you reach your goal. No matter what you choose to do in later life, being a pilot is a huge accomplishment that will always be yours. In addition, being an HHSC Junior and earning your license is something that you will accomplish through work, effort, and persistence. These are precisely the skills that college admissions offices and prospective employers look for.
  • Hangar (1)You will become part of, and contribute to, a world­class program, almost unique in aviation. There are few soaring clubs with a Junior program. Harris Hill’s is one of the oldest, best known, and largest with approximately 35 Junior members. Less than 200 student pilot certificates are given out each year to prospective pilots under 16 years of age and there is virtually nowhere else in the United States where a young adult can learn to fly an aircraft at age 14. That makes Harris Hill Juniors completely unique.
  • Soaring is a great start if you want to become a power pilot. Soaring and powered flight are very similar.  The additional work to learn the techniques of powered flight are much easier if you already know how to fly a glider.  If you work steadily and gain your license by age 16, you will already be an experienced pilot, and if you desire, can easily transition to powered flight.

Are you still interested in joining?

We want you to know exactly what you are committing to.  If, after reading the above information, you are still interested in joining, here are the steps.

Arrange an in-person meeting with Dave Corcoran via email at  He will give you a tour of the facilities, review the commitments for Juniors, and give you and your parent(s)/guardian a chance to ask questions.

After the tour, you will be asked to discuss whether you want to join with your parent(s) or guardian.  If you decide you want to join the HHSC Juniors, we will send you an application and ask you to take an online wing runner safety course.  The cost to join is $80, which covers your Soaring Society of America and National Soaring Museum dues (HHSC members are required to join both organizations) and your first logbook.  When those are received, you will be ready to start your journey as a Harris Hill Junior!