ChapterGram: January 2013
Chapter Spotlight: Chapter 252 (Oshkosh, Wisconsin)
Brian Cooper, EAA Chapter 252 President
Brian Cooper, EAA Chapter 252 President
What is your current position with Chapter 252? How long have you been in that position?
I've been the president for a whopping nine days! I was the Young Eagles coordinator prior to being elected, though I've only been in Oshkosh (and the chapter) since April 2012.
Can you give me a brief overview of what you do in your position?
As chapter president, I'm responsible for the general business of the chapter and doing my best to "shepherd" the chapter in the right direction. I try to delegate as much as I can; I try to be involved in most chapter activities, but I try to distribute leadership and responsibility for events among the membership to keep folks from burning out.
Who makes up your membership (homebuilders, pilots, enthusiasts, etc.)?
Our membership is very mixed, with plenty of homebuilders, pilots, and enthusiasts. Our chapter is certainly not the largest; we have approximately 70 members. Eleven months out of the year, Oshkosh reverts to a small town, and our chapter reflects that. Having EAA headquarters in our backyard, we do have many EAA employees in our chapter.
Is your membership growing, declining, or staying the same?
Our membership is older and relatively static. Being located in Oshkosh doesn't make us particularly immune to the aging membership that many chapters struggle with. We are beginning to take steps toward changing that, however. I should mention that I'm 29 years old, so I'm bringing a younger perspective and younger connections to the chapter. I cherish the people, aircraft, and history of the past, but I'm also realistic. I see that people my age and younger just aren't being drawn to EAA and aviation. It's too simple to blame any one thing; there were obstacles in the "good old days" and there are obstacles now. But I do know that the place to wage this fight is at the local chapter level, and when you tighten your focus and look at what you can do in your area, the problem does start to become more tractable.
Does your chapter have a permanent building/hangar?
Funny you should ask that-we're hoping to close on the purchase of a chapter hangar by the end of this month! We're hoping that the hangar gives us a real boost in our activity level. Ideas abound: hands-on meeting presentations, projects, fly-outs, fly-ins, Aviation Explorer Post meetings, Saturday morning gatherings, and, most importantly, a place to put all of our junk!
What types of activities/events does your chapter engage in?
We have educational and social meetings, pancake breakfasts, a corn roast, and an annual banquet. AirVenture is the elephant in the room during the end of July and early August, but with so many chapter members either employed at EAA or volunteering at the fly-in, we don't have much opportunity to do any large activities as a chapter.
Any interesting chapter projects in the works, aircraft or otherwise?
Two Bearhawks, a Wag-Aero Sport Trainer (Cub replica), a Zenith CH 750 (two, if you count the EAA employee project), a Sonex or two, and one ice fishing shack.
What has been your chapter's most successful fundraising event? Why was it successful?
We ran Aeromart during AirVenture for several years and raised $60,000. It was a massive undertaking for a chapter our size, and after a few years we passed Aeromart on to the Vintage Aircraft Association (VAA). That was a unique opportunity in many ways, but I know of many other chapters that "run" some function at AirVenture. I would think some of those might be able to generate income. It helps to network, and it never hurts to ask.
What is your chapter's relationship with the local community?
Given our location and the crossover between volunteers/employees at EAA headquarters and our chapter, there is definitely a relationship with HQ, but it is very informal. We also host a very popular pancake breakfast that we invite the general public to. Free Young Eagles flights and pancakes are a recipe for success around here. As I said earlier, we are looking into sponsoring an Aviation Explorers Post. That is a large undertaking, but it is the kind of activity that promotes a key chapter mission of engaging younger people in aviation, and it's likely something that will give back to the chapter and the community.
Based on some of your chapter's past successes, do you have any tips or advice for other chapter presidents?
I would like to let all of the chapters know about the tremendous resources available at EAA HQ. Until recently, I lived in Ohio, and it never really crossed my mind to talk to the folks at HQ when a problem or question came up at our chapter. HQ seemed like "those folks" who lived "over there" in Oshkosh. Since moving here, I've learned otherwise. HQ may have a national focus, but they definitely stand ready to assist individuals and chapters. Don't hesitate to contact them and talk with them. A great way to "bridge the gap" with HQ is to attend a Chapter Leaders Academy that is held at Oshkosh a few times a year.