Three years ago I saw an announcement in the newspaper about a meeting of the Experimental Aircraft Association at the local airport (Alamogordo, New Mexico). One thing jumped out at me: You didn’t have to be a pilot but just have an interest in airplanes and flying. This statement got my attention because I have always had a fascination with airplanes and especially how they are assembled. Maybe I could attend one meeting and see what EAA was all about.
The very first meeting I attended was all it took to decide that this was an organization I could enjoy being a part of. No one questioned the fact that I wasn’t a pilot; the members were very gracious and welcomed me to the meeting.
It’s been three years and several months since attending that first meeting, and I now know for sure I’m in the right organization. The members have shown me plans of their aircraft they’re building, taken me to several hangars, and actually let me see what building an airplane was all about. Best of all, members have taken me up in their homebuilt aircraft to show me how they actually fly them. Oh yes, on the flights, they even gave me some lessons about flying their aircraft. What a thrill!
Since attending a meeting of Chapter 251 and actually joining the ranks of EAA itself, I have fulfilled a lifelong dream to be around pilots and their aircraft. I have been associated with aircraft since my first flight back in junior high school in a PT-19, then on numerous occasions since.
When I married my wife, I would go to the local airport and watch our friend, who was in the National Guard, practice landing his jet fighter. While I was in the Army stationed in Korea, my job allowed me to take many flights - in a Bell helicopter and a de Havilland Beaver. The pilots always instructed me on how to fly these wondrous aircraft, so my love of flying grew and grew. Now I am actually a member of EAA and can experience firsthand what it was like to be with these pilots and share in their enjoyment of flying.
So why would a nonpilot like me join an organization of very talented people especially since I knew practically nothing about being a full-fledged pilot? It’s simple, really; these guys and gals are proud of what they have accomplished and proud of their abilities to build and fly their own aircraft. They are proud of the Young Eagles program where they fly young people and introduce them to the wonders of flying. This program doesn’t require me to be a pilot; it just allows me to help with something I wish I had been a part of years and years ago.
I am no pilot, I have no aircraft, and I only love to be around these wonderful people and participate in their love of a craft - flying!
By the way, I forgot to mention that last July I celebrated my 80th birthday. It’s never too late to participate in EAA; maybe someday I’ll even be lucky enough to fly to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.