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ChapterGram: October 2013

Chapter 1240's New Aviation Development Center


By John Rousch, Vice President - EAA Chapter 1240, EAA 647770

It was one of those late sunny mornings in Sebring, Florida. We had just finished another round of painting in our new EAA Chapter 1240 Aviation Development Center. Abby, a sister of one of my high school aerospace students, came over to me and Phil Lockwood, owner of Lockwood Aviation, to ask for help on her middle school science report. She wanted to know how to explain "lift."

Phil and I looked at each other and smiled, not because we knew the answer, but here was proof of what we built the building for in the first place. Another student, Mara, is a second-year aerospace student at Lake Placid High School, and like many of the students in the two full sections of the program, had come out to help finish our new facility.

Chapter 1240 has committed to focusing on youth aviation education and supporting the STEM curriculum. EAA's Young Eagles program has been a great resource to bring youth and their families closer to the world of aviation. But we needed more.

We put our heads together and realized there were many community resources that could be brought together for a common goal; we had worked together informally for quite a while, but we needed to move to the next level. We drafted a partnership agreement between the Sebring Regional Airport, EAA Chapter 1240, the School Board of Highlands County, and the Heartland Workforce Board.

Each of these members had a major stake in getting our youth and their families involved. We latched onto the catchphrase, "Our youth are 25 percent of our populations, but 100 percent of our future." Coming together with a formal agreement identifying who does what and when built a foundation of involvement that started paying dividends very quickly.

Having spent more than 40 years in education at many different levels and being an industrial arts teacher, I learned that kids learn best when it is hands-on, meaningful, and fun and provides them with a challenge. Our chapter youth activities help that happen in coordination with the high school classes I teach.

The partnership provided us with a reputation that was serious, focused, and in it for the long haul. That helped us generate additional community support and involvement.

We were able to get our first donated youth project aircraft through Build A Plane. It is an Aeronca Tri-Champ from Doug Vranek in Iowa. Our next plane, a 1946 conventional-gear Champ, came from networking with our membership. A grant from the workforce board helped purchase the supplies for us to begin to replace the fabric on one of the Champs. The kids are learning the Stewart water-based fabric system. They are having a great deal of fun learning side by side with us old guys. They may never put fabric on another aircraft again, but the challenges of learning a technical process, applying problem-solving techniques, and working as a team are important life skills.

All along, we had a dream. One of my favorite movies is Field of Dreams, and a great line from it was "If you build it, they will come." We had a dream of building our own place where we would have the room and resources to do even more. We had a vision of a community aviation activity center.

Enter James Ray of the Aviation Education Foundation, Naples, Florida. He committed to providing us with 75 percent of the cost of a 60 x 70 foot hangar for our chapter headquarters and an educational facility for our chapter youth programs.

We figured we could get the building closed in and working for $175,000. That left us with the challenge of raising $45,000 to complete the project. That's a lot of pancake breakfasts!

At the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo last year, Mr. Ray met our students at the chapter youth display and found out more about our commitment. The next week we were surprised with a check for $175,000!

Through many community donations of time and materials, the building is up, finished on the inside, and our dedication is scheduled for October 26. We are on our way and very grateful to our community.

(By the way, Abby got an "A" on her report.)

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