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EAA Experimenter

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Homebuilders Update: EAA Publications

By Adam Smith, EAA Vice President, Membership
Adam Smith
Adam Smith

Ever since we started publishing Experimenter as a monthly e-newsletter for homebuilders, your enthusiastic editor, Pat Panzera, has been politely pestering me to write an article about the Sopwith Pup replica I’m slowly building in my hangar. Sorry, Pat, this is not that article, although I’m working on it!

But I do want to take time to share some details of what EAA is doing for homebuilders in our print and electronic publications. You may have read of some significant changes coming to EAA Sport Aviation magazine starting with next month’s issue. In fact, they are some of the most extensive changes seen in more than 56 years of EAA publishing. I value the special involvement of homebuilders in the organization and would like to share some additional details and insights with you.

First, I should emphasize this is not change for the sake of change. The direction is based on a very detailed set of research guidelines that have included:

  • Listening closely to the EAA membership. Over 25,000 responses have been received to a detailed magazine survey distributed every month since March 2008. Thank you to everyone who has participated in these surveys; it’s been very helpful to know what you liked, didn’t like, and what you felt was missing.
  • Looking at behavior patterns to find which web pages are visited by our members and which are not, which forums are well attended during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, which videos are watched online, which of our e-newsletters are opened, which articles within them are read, etc.
  • Speaking to younger aviation enthusiasts about what we need to do to reverse the aging trend in the aviation community.
  • Surveying the reasons that some people are letting their EAA memberships lapse or failing to join EAA in the first place.

This research has given us a clearer understanding of what EAA members and the aviation community are looking for and helped us develop a new strategy for our print and electronic publications.

The first of the new EAA Sport Aviation issues is undergoing final editing and should arrive in your mailbox early January. You’ll be struck immediately by changes to the cover design. We have tried to create a style that is contemporary and engaging while maintaining EAA’s tradition of quality aviation imagery. A change in the size of the magazine will also be apparent; each individual page is 17 percent larger than the current format, and there will be more pages in total (132 pages in January 2010 versus 116 pages in December 2009).

But What’s Inside for Homebuilders?
The voice of the homebuilt aircraft community has certainly come through strongly in our surveying work. It may interest you to learn that almost exactly one-third of EAA’s 160,000 members consider themselves to be homebuilders. One message we heard loud, clear, and consistent from virtually all homebuilders is that you are looking for practical information: “Show me how to do it, how it was done, give me the technical details, etc.” Interestingly, we have sometimes published an article about a homebuilt airplane that had been rated poorly by homebuilders because it lacked practical information about how the airplane was built.

This has strongly influenced our vision for the entire magazine--the guiding principle we adopted for the whole project has been to help our members better answer the question, “How do I...?”
To help meet the needs of homebuilders, we decided to create a specific magazine section called “Hands On,” which has the singular goal of delighting the homebuilder community. Let me give you a quick tour of what will be there each month:

What Our Members Are Building & Restoring
Our surveys tell us this is the most popular feature of the current EAA Sport Aviation, so clearly it will stay. There will be a new design layout, but the basic idea remains the same: It’s a showcase of member projects. We’ll continue to open the feature with an in-depth look at one project of particular interest, followed by a series of smaller pieces. If there’s to be any change, we are trying to be more proactive in finding interesting projects that are still under construction. Dana Heimos, the editor of “What Our Members Are Building & Restoring,” is always seeking submissions, which can be e-mailed here: DHeimos@eaa.org.
 
Homebuilder Handbook
Something we’ve seen very often in our reader surveys is a comment that reads something like “If only you could bring back Tony Bingelis...” I understand this from my own personal experience. When I started building an airplane, finding Tony’s archived columns in the EAA online archive was like receiving a gift from God. He was a great communicator, writing on the basis of huge knowledge and experience, and illustrated his work with handy little diagrams. Sadly Tony is no longer with us, but we thought long and hard about how best to replicate his style. That’s the goal of “Homebuilder Handbook,” in which we will take a specific area of homebuilding and seek to enrich your knowledge of it each month. We created an index of every column that Tony ever wrote for EAA, and some of our future articles will seek to bring an old Bingelis article up to date--sometimes there have been important developments since the original column was written.

Hints for Homebuilders
One of our biggest successes over the past couple of years has been the online video series “Hints for Homebuilders.” On average, each homebuilder in the EAA membership has now viewed over 20 of these short videos, all of which aim to improve your knowledge of a given subject or process. We are essentially bringing the same idea and style into the magazine. Perhaps the biggest quality to look for is the highly illustrative style we’ve adopted for this feature. A source of inspiration has been home improvement type magazines, which often use good illustrations rather than words to help their readers follow step-by-step instructions. We felt the same idea translates well to aircraft homebuilding and look forward to sharing the results with you.

Build It Yourself
This is not dissimilar to “Hints for Homebuilders,” except each month we will be featuring a specific item and showing you how to build it from beginning to end (for example, how to make a simple slip indicator, an affordable in-ear headset, or a set of wing stands). The first item we chose for the January issue was how to make the classic EAA workbench, something that every homebuilder needs. This feature is already complete as I write this, and the combination of words, photos, and illustration is really fantastic. I can’t wait for you to see it!

Savvy Aviator
When we reviewed the attendance at forums during AirVenture—where members vote with their feet by attending the ones they’re interested in—it was obvious that Mike Busch’s “Savvy Aviator” presentations were always highly attended. “He must be doing something right,” we thought! Feedback from members indicated Mike has a practical, grassroots perspective on aviation maintenance, based on hard-won experience, that’s popular with EAA homebuilders. As a result we asked Mike to be a regular contributor to EAA Sport Aviation.

Firewall Forward
Anytime we have published anything about aero engines, it has been warmly received by the EAA membership. It’s a subject that is perhaps underrepresented in mainstream aviation publishing but very important to the experience of all pilots and homebuilders in particular. So we decided to create a new feature that allows us to cover, as the name suggests, everything in front of the firewall. It will be mainly about piston engines of all varieties, but from time to time we may cover subjects like propellers, baffling, starters, etc.

Outside of this dedicated “Hands On” section, each issue should contain plenty of other interest for homebuilders too. “Member Tested” features new products and tools being reviewed and rated by EAA members each month, and “Expert Panel” seeks the counsel of specialists on aviation subjects. (Our first panel addresses how to approach painting an airplane.) Expect to see homebuilding representation in areas such as “Flightline” (industry news), “AeroInnovations” (innovation news), “Members in Action,” and “Member’s Forum.”

Our plan is to produce five longer “Feature Stories” each month, and there will naturally be a strong homebuilding representation there too. Look out for a great feature on the Gweduck amphibian in the January edition. And even if the subject of the story isn’t specifically a homebuilt airplane, we’ll often be working in themes and information that are very pertinent to homebuilders.

Overall the content inside the magazine has been crafted to reflect the diversity of interests that exist in the EAA family. So this means that in addition to homebuilding content, you’ll be seeing articles aimed at pilots and flying and the many enthusiasts that don’t build or fly (yet!) but have a deep love and appreciation for aviation.

We did, by the way, consider creating a separate magazine that was focused exclusively on homebuilding. But it just didn’t make sense from any perspective. Rather than producing two separate magazines of lesser size and quality (one for homebuilders, one for the rest), we felt it was better to produce one top-quality magazine that captures the spirit that binds all EAA members together, regardless of the particular aircraft we build or fly.  If we want the movement to grow and prosper, it does seem like a good idea to share the magic of homebuilding each month with 100,000+ EAA members who haven’t caught the bug yet.

Also, we now have some very powerful electronic tools that can satisfy the specific needs of the homebuilder community. While we’re confident that each issue of EAA Sport Aviation will contain great value for every reader, we know that members often have a hunger for more specialized knowledge than we could ever cram into a single magazine. That’s why, along with the magazine changes, we’re also investing quite heavily in websites and e-newsletters. Over the past decade they have exploded in popularity. For example, this year we have recorded over 20 million visits to our websites, 60 million pages of information accessed, and 4 million video views.

As a reader of Experimenter, of course, you know this more than anyone. Along with the “Hints for Homebuilders” videos I mentioned earlier, Experimenter has been warmly received by the homebuilder community with almost 30,000 subscribers. We’re able to track how many people open the e-newsletter and read its contents each month. The stats from Experimenter have been easily the best of the 10 e-newsletters we distribute to various audiences. We aim to keep this up and plans are in the pipeline for even better things ahead. I’d like to take a moment to thank Pat Panzera for the part he has played in shaping Experimenter into the success it’s become. There are few people I’ve met that are more deeply passionate and knowledgeable about the homebuilt aircraft movement.

Finally, do remember that your $3.33 per month membership in EAA represents much more than just a magazine subscription. Simply stated, our goal is for EAA to be the finest aircraft homebuilders organization in the world. In addition to our magazine and electronic publications, some of the ways we support the homebuilt movement include:

Government Relations
Think 51 percent rule, North Las Vegas, Jacksonville, etc.

Chapters
Providing a huge amount of camaraderie, encouragement, support, and resources to homebuilders at a local level.

AirVenture
The single best opportunity in the world to promote and grow homebuilding. A vast array of exhibits, workshops, forums, awards programs, and suppliers. And the pure inspiration of seeing almost 1,000 homebuilt airplanes parked together.

Media Relations
Guess who the media calls when a homebuilt aircraft crashes anywhere in the country.

Aviation Services
13,000 homebuilder members used our e-mail/phone hotline last year for expert help.

Museum
Preserves the best collection of homebuilt aircraft in the world, including the Smithsonian.

Hall of Fame
Recognizing icons in the homebuilt movement, also helping to motivate and inspire new generations.

Sport Air Workshops
These 2-day hands-on courses receive the highest satisfaction ratings of any program under the EAA banner.

Homebuilt Safety
The Technical Counselor and Flight Advisor programs

We’re eager to put the January issue of EAA Sport Aviation in your hands and look forward to receiving your feedback. Our new direction has been based heavily on member feedback, and we promise to keep listening in the future. You can refer to a list of frequently asked questions at www.EAA.org/faq. And if at any time you have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at ASmith@eaa.org.

Thank you very much for your membership and support of EAA!

 
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