EAA Chapter Resources
The Rise and Fall and Death of a Chapter
Thirty years ago we started our chapter with only 6 to 8 people who came together through a newspaper advertisement. By running the ad for a short time our chapter grew to about 25 members. When we received our national chapter recognition it was decided that everyone at that meeting that night would become a charter member. Now we were an official chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.
We knew we had to make it easy for new people to join and made our dues so low anybody could join. We went to malls, even took projects to show people that you really can build your own airplane in your own one car garage, living room, basement, and almost anywhere that is covered. You can come from all walks of life. You don’t have to be a certified airplane mechanic or a pilot; you can flip burgers at McDonalds, be a library page, a high school dropout just as long as you have the desire to build and own your own airplane. We went to sports and vacation shows and our numbers continued to grow to 200 or more members.
Then we became complacent and stopped doing these things. In other words we stopped selling EAA. We stopped telling people you don’t have to be rich to build your dream plane. We stopped telling people you build an airplane one piece at a time. You would not eat an elephant all at once. You would eat it one bite at a time. We stopped telling people you do not have to make payments on an airplane. You can save up your spare change until you get enough to buy the next piece. You do not have to build a kit plane. If that is what you want to do, even kit builders offer the airplanes in parts or kits. You build your airplane as you can afford it. We stopped trying to grow! As time passed our chapter built chapter projects; one of these was a prize chapter project winner at Oshkosh. Our members built, completed and flew nearly 50 homebuilts. These were the glory days that wouldn’t last because we quit selling EAA. What if Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Honda, Whirlpool, and Maytag quit advertising? How long would they last, no matter how good their product is?
Today our chapter is nearly dormant. Membership is down to less than 50 and depleting quickly. Most of us are too old to do anything about it, so we just go to meetings and talk about the old days. There might be one or two projects going on but the end is near. Our chapter treasury is almost depleted. We now talk about sending kids to Oshkosh, but where is the money going to come from for next year?
The reason I am writing this is to encourage any new chapters to always keep looking for new members. Always keep putting EAA in front of the public. Never quit showing and selling people on EAA, both national and local chapters.
The only way EAA and its chapters can survive is to advertise more heavily and do more with the public. Never quit selling because nothing is accomplished until something is sold.”
—Author’s name withheld