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Why I Am a Lifetime Member of EAA

 

Why I Am a Lifetime Member of EAA
Lynne Wainfan

Why I Am a Lifetime Member of EAA
Our homebuilt, the FMX-4 Facetmobile being flown over Oshkosh by Peter Lert.

Why I Am a Lifetime Member of EAA
Lynx aerodynamics designer Barnaby and me with our first airplane at Oshkosh. Note the dead grass outline - people took pictures of the border to build models.

By Lynne Wainfan, Ph.D, EAA 504081

September 4, 2012 - Like many of you, I've gone through some hard times lately. During one particular trauma I found myself questioning the future. One of my first thoughts was, "what about Oshkosh?" That moment of clarity told me something of my values - I value the EAA's annual fly-in.

Why? Because for me, it's a family reunion. No, not with my kinfolk - they are not into airplanes, but rather with my virtual family. These are people I hung around with for the past 30 years, ever since our first trip to Oshkosh in 1979. Back then I was an aspiring astronaut, studying aerodynamics at the University of Michigan under Professor Lesher. He had loaned my boyfriend his car so he could fly Teal to Oshkosh and we headed to Wisconsin. We drove and drove from Ann Arbor, thinking perhaps we'd missed the airport when we came over the rise in the highway and there, WHOA, were rows and rows of thousands of airplanes. "I think we found it," I told Barnaby.

Those 33 years were filled with some amazing memories. Some were happy times, like the arrival of Rutan's Proteus when I worked with his team at Hughes Aircraft Company, and some sad times, like the year we honored our dear friend Richard Riley on EAA's commemorative wall. I've had some exciting times at Oshkosh, like when we flew our airplane, the FMX-4 there in 1994. It attracted quite a bit of attention, including one grandmother who walked past and said, "Look, Timmy - someone has flown their tent to Oshkosh!"

These three decades of coming to AirVenture have included some of the most memorable times in my life, not just for the airplanes which are exceptionally cool, but because of the people we connect with. I met the legendary Peter Lert at a Berkut builders' party, and strengthened my core muscles as he described his unauthorized landing at a Japanese air base. ("in a culture where spilling your guts is taken literally...") I met a guy named John Roncz, found out he was Burt Rutan's aerodynamicst, and I was recently honored by his request to write a testimonial for his book. One time a blimp co-pilot kindly gave me his seat...while the blimp was in mid-air! I met the head of the Hamilton Watch Company in an exhibit building and got him out to Mojave to see some friends of mine about sponsorship. As a result, Jeff Greason has promised this aspiring astronaut a ride on the suborbital spacecraft called the Lynx (thanks for naming it after me, Jeff). Every year I look forward to entering the media building, where each AirVenture, the terrific ladies who work there tell me how big the girls are getting.

This year I am making plans to bring my best friends. Tom and Tina Trefethen haven't been to Oshkosh since the 70s. Their mother created a wave of gawking men at Rockford fly-ins when this gorgeous Sport Aviation cover girl talked about being the first woman to fly in the Reno Air Races. This year Mr. Paul Poberezny is honoring Joan Trefethen as a pioneer homebuilder.

But beyond the events and the people, the EAA has deep meaning for me. They are defenders of our freedoms - to share airports, airspace, and input on regulations. I like being a part of an organization that is making it possible for my future grandchildren to fly. EAA is also helping our daughters to love aviation as I do, with hands-on building opportunities with that that old-fashioned wooden construction - my kids have been standing on metal structure to act as test loads since they could stand. Mandy has Facebook friends she sees every year at Camp Scholler's day camp, Julie enjoys building things out of materials she finds in the Fly Market, and last year Katie got a job in EAA publications, adding several new items to her impressive resume. You show me some kid who watches the night air show, hears the song, "I'm Proud to be an American," and doesn't love aviation and I'll give you a nickel. Ain't gonna happen, my friend. EAA embodies the American spirit: patriotism, innovation, and a spirit of freedom that defies limitations - even those of gravity, and I'm proud to be both an American and an EAAer.

So now you can see why I love this organization. When the opportunity of my recent challenges caused me to examine my values, I found that a lifetime membership in EAA was on the top of my list. I hope more people will express their appreciation to this awesome organization by joining me. Together we can share this amazing world of experimental aviation with our children, our grandchildren, and theirs to come.

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