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EAA Chapter Members Saved My Life

By Dan Grunloh, Editor, Light Plane World

Dan Grunloh

After nearly three decades of interaction with the members of my local EAA chapter, I’ve come to believe they probably saved my life a few times and certainly have enhanced the success and degree of fun I’ve attained in flying. The members of EAA Ultralight Chapter 88 whose 20th anniversary fly-in is featured in this issue would most likely agree. Every pilot should have some flying buddies. They can inspire, teach, and even save your life.

Some of my minor “saves” over the years were direct and obvious. Someone noticed a cracked fuel line, low tire, or helmet strap not fastened. Others were indirect, less obvious, but more profound. I’m sorry to say that many lessons I learned from chapter members came from their mistakes. Poorly executed downwind takeoffs, perils of flying with shoddy equipment, and the hazards of power lines when flying during twilight were examples demonstrated to me. I hesitate to ponder the number of screw-ups I’ve avoided by having seen it done by someone else first. Thanks, everyone.

But of course there’s much more to flying clubs than avoiding mishaps. Some pilots wouldn’t go on long cross-country flights if they didn’t see others doing it, having fun, and making it back home. Anyone who has flown cross-country with three or more planes needs no explanation of the benefits and fun of having a group of flying buddies. The minor glitches and challenges that come with cross-country flying are the things that bring the sense of adventure to the whole enterprise. I’m one of the lucky ones to have a small network of pilots who like to go on short cross-country flights on short notice. It’s called an EAA chapter, and the modern cell phone makes it possible.

My position is that everyone from multi-thousand-hour veteran pilots to absolute newcomers can benefit by hooking up with a flying club or EAA chapter. A small group like the Midwest Ultralight Crop Hoppers can accomplish much more as a group than as individuals. The fun that comes from flying is multiplied. Those of us that visited their fly-in had fun, but it looked like they were having even more fun. If you aren’t a member of a local EAA chapter, check the online chapter locator to find one in your area. If there are none in your area, call the EAA Chapter Office at 920-426-4876 to learn how to start your own.

There areabout 1,000 EAA chapters, so here are my tips for how to get along. Remember, a flying club is like a family in that the members have long (sometimes decades long) friendships. Newcomers will always be welcome, but excuse the longtime members a little if they spend too much time with their lifelong friends they see only once a month. If you feel that the chapter isn’t active enough, you could be the one to wake them up and get them going. Successful EAA chapters don’t just spring up by themselves like mushrooms. You have to make them at the individual level. Build, fly, and have fun!

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