Bob Epting Receives the Phillips 66 EAA Young Eagles Leadership Award
Bob Epting of Chapel Hill, NC, is the recipient of the 2019 Phillips 66® Aviation Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Young Eagles Leadership Award. The award, which is announced annually at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, recognizes outstanding Young Eagles volunteers that have supported the future of aviation by going above and beyond the basic Young Eagles flight.
Epting has flown Young Eagles for a quarter of a century — almost since the inception of the program in 1992. He has flown 3,150 Young Eagles flights, ranking him number four out of 55,000 volunteer pilots worldwide. Many of the children he’s flown are burn victims from local hospitals.
“I am honored to receive this award for such a wonderful program. Every one of the kids I’ve flown is special to me,” says Epting. “I want to thank everybody at Phillips 66 and EAA for their support of this program. It really is a team effort, and I can think of a lot of people that deserve this award more than me.”
For more than 25 years, Phillips 66 Aviation has proudly sponsored The EAA Young Eagles, an organization whose sole mission is to introduce and inspire kids in the world of aviation by providing youths ages 8-17 their first free ride in an airplane. More than 2 million children have flown through the EAA Young Eagles program with the help of EAA’s network of volunteer pilots and ground volunteers.
“Bob’s an outstanding individual who’s committed to healing and inspiring others, and we’re fortunate he’s doing it through his love of aviation,” says Eric McMurphy, sales manager, General Aviation, Phillips 66. “On behalf of the aviation community, I want to thank him for his commitment to the EAA Young Eagles program and congratulate him on this well-deserved recognition.”
During his time as a Young Eagles pilot, Epting established a partnership with the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, in which he regularly gave young burn victims their first ride in an airplane. Epting saw firsthand the power that flight had on the burn victims’ mind and spirit and the impact it had on their healing process as they strived to live a normal life again. Epting encouraged the kids to fly the plane themselves, using the metaphor that as they take control and fly his plane, they can take charge of their treatment and overcome their injuries. What seemed like an insurmountable task was suddenly achievable with a little extra confidence and faith.
“Every one of these kids has left the airport thinking they can do something they never thought they’d do,” says Epting. “That’s incredibly important. It is in the belief that you can heal and live a normal life again.”
Today, the airport that accommodated those Jaycee Burn Center flights no longer operates those rides, but Epting has helped establish similar partnerships between other EAA Chapters, airports and local hospitals around the country.
Epting knew he wanted to be a pilot as early as four years old. He earned his pilot license in 1983 and since then has logged 4,500 hours of flight, all in Piper Cubs, Piper Arrows, and RV-6 and RV-7 aircraft. He travels around the Southeast for his work as an environmental lawyer and, of course, for fun. And although Epting is an attorney by trade, he has made a name for himself in the aviation world. In fact, he is no stranger to receiving awards at Oshkosh. Epting received the Gold Lindy in 2015 for his restored 1946 Piper J3C-65, and in 2001, he received the EAA Young Eagles Humanitarian award.
Epting shares his love of aviation with his twin brother, Jim, a retired lieutenant colonel and former executive officer of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. “My brother and I don’t come from a family of aviators, but I’ve always had an instinct for sticks and rudders — even before I knew what they were,” says Epting. “I am truly honored to receive this award for something I’m so passionate about.”