Chapter 75 Celebrates 50 Years of Emergency Repairs at AirVenture
By James Wynbrandt
August 7, 2012 - There's no better place to have a mechanical issue with your airplane than AirVenture, thanks to the Emergency Aircraft Repair (EAR) center, which celebrated its 50th anniversary of providing repair assistance to aircraft at EAA's annual fly-in conventions.
EAR is a service project of EAA Chapter 75 of Davenport, Iowa. Some 40 volunteers staff the center, about half A&P mechanics, the other half homebuilders and mechanically inclined pilots.
The EAR lends tools and provides repair advice and hands-on assistance for virtually any repairable aircraft problem, from a missing screw to broken landing gear or a damaged composite structure. Even before AirVenture 2012 officially began, the EAR crew was hard at work.
"We just had a tail wheel break on a 1938 J-3 Cub," EAR Chairman Cy Galley said, after one of the aircraft in the Piper Cub mass arrival had a mishap upon landing. "We'll have it welded up by tonight."
"It's a family affair," said volunteer Mindy Leahy, of Davenport. "My dad drove me here when I was a baby and we came here every year, then I got married and now I bring my kids here."
"It's fun to help people," added EAR co-chair Jim Smith. "We've had people from all over the world come here and get repaired. They come to the window with their hearts in their hand saying, 'Can you fix this?' They're awfully glad to see us."
He and other Chapter 75 members started the repair center at the 1962 Rockford convention, after the A&P on the field tired of lending his tools to EAA members who needed to repair their aircraft.
"We said, 'This is a service we should provide,' and Paul Poberezny said, 'Get it done,'" Smith recalled. "Three of us drove home to Davenport that night, got tools, and came back the next morning. That's how it got going."
Chapter members designed and built their current facility in 1999. It's stocked with virtually every tool used in general aviation, service manuals, an air compressor, welders, a cherry picker, and other heavy equipment. Any pilot with a mechanical problem can borrow tools from EAR for do-it-yourself repairs or get advice and help from the EAR experts. With tow bars and Gators, the EAR crew can also pull aircraft right up to the small ramp fronting the facility for repairs. (If parts aren't repairable, pilots often can find replacement parts at the Fly Market, another reason to have your next mechanical problem at AirVenture!)
"We've had as low as 150 (repairs) and upwards to 300 in a single year," Galley said, the variable number attributable to weather conditions.