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Solo Cross Country Memories Come Flooding Back


Eagle Flight
Eagle Flight with Rich Doering and Pilot Jim Hantschel

New Young Eagle
Brian O'Lena with Young Eagle Damon and mom Kelly

Young Eagles Flight
Brian O'Lena and Chapter 838 president Eric Wolf

By Trevor Janz, EAA 656941
EAA Manager of Chapters and Eagle Flights

August 21, 2012 - On August 11, I had the opportunity to fly down to Chapter 838 in Racine, Wisconsin, with Brian O'Lena (manager of EAA Young Eagles and youth pathways) for its Young Eagles rally.

Landing at Racine brought back many fond memories of my first solo cross country, when I flew from Racine to Janesville to Rockford and back to Racine. I hadn't been back to Racine in a very long time and I was looking forward to meeting the members of Chapter 838. I was also excited to see their facility because I had heard so many great things about their building, hangar, and aviation museum.

As we taxied up to the building, I was impressed with its modern look, complete with beautiful landscaping. The brick patio with large trees and a couple of grills overlooking the ramp was very inviting. As we approached, we were greeted by Eric Wolf, chapter president, who was standing by his newly finished RV-8A. The amazing paint job made it look fast just sitting there on the ramp.

Once inside, the smell of freshly brewed coffee and tasty Danish kringle-a dessert that Racine is famous for-made us feel right at home.

Brian O'Lena had been a Chapter 838 member for many years and was happy to give me a quick tour of the facility. The chapter has a small museum with some vintage aircraft and some hands-on displays for kids. It also has a complete workshop that members can use for their aircraft building/restoration projects. The chapter has dedicated one night a week as "building night" to help members with their current aircraft building projects.

Chapter 838 hosts the local Aviation Explorer Post. There were several Aviation Explorers wearing orange vests who were volunteering with ground operations. They had a computer flight simulator set up for the Young Eagles to try their hand at flying. This is an excellent way to attract younger folks to your chapter. In fact, I found out that most of the Aviation Explorers are also members of the chapter.

I brought with me Eagle Flights registration forms and information, and I'm sure glad I did. I met a man named Rich Doering, who was there with his son for a Young Eagles flight. After his son came back from the flight, Rich mentioned that he had always thought about taking flying lessons. Without letting another minute pass, Tracy Miller, Chapter 838's Young Eagles coordinator, quickly filled out the Eagle Flights registration form. Before long, Jim Hantschel and Rich were on their way to Jim's Cessna 172 for an Eagle Flight. (It just so happened to be Rich's birthday-what a great gift!) They ended up giving three Eagle Flights that day.

It was great seeing the kids and adults excited about flying, and programs like Young Eagles, and now Eagle Flights, help make these special moments possible. More than an introductory flight, these two volunteer-driven programs create a connection between the flying community and the general public, reaching out to those who may aspire to fly and building a lasting relationship with members of the local community.

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