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EAA Chapters Work Together to Get Things Done

By Ti Windisch

July 26, 2017 - Volunteers make EAA AirVenture Oshkosh — and EAA’s mission to spread the spirit of aviation — possible. Every single volunteer makes a difference, but several EAA chapters have joined together to work on projects in unison.

“Chapter members are some of EAA’s most engaged members, so it is no surprise these groups band together to have such a positive influence on AirVenture,” said David Leiting, EAA chapter outreach specialist. “Even more impressive, these chapters are making the same impact at their home airports for the other 51 weeks a year, not just this week in Oshkosh.”

EAA Chapter 75 runs the Emergency Aircraft Repair barn, a vital service that helps attendees with issues ranging from dealing with dead batteries to pulling damaged airplanes off the runway to avoid disaster.

Tom Shelton, chairman of the Emergency Aircraft Repair barn, said the service originated in 1962 and had expanded significantly before Chapter 75 took it on as a group.

“It started with two people working in the back of the car,” Tom said. “Now we haul up a trailerful of tools. We have a lot of parts. Last year we had over 40 volunteers and did over 180 operations.”

Sections of some Chapter 75 newsletters now focus on the Emergency Aircraft Repair barn, which is celebrating its 55th anniversary during AirVenture 2017.

Chapter 237 is heavily involved in several projects, including the restoration of EAA’s B-25, Berlin Express, and staffing the Weeks Hangar before — and during — EAA AirVenture.

In addition to the work Chapter 237 does together, with organizational help from chapter president Kirk Fjetland, it has been instrumental in setting up multichapter work parties, a newer concept that has already produced positive results.

“Everybody jumps on board, and it’s a ‘let’s get it done’ type of thing,” Kirk said. “It’s just a matter of organizing and planning things out.”

“Whatever ideas those guys can get from us, and whatever we can get from them, helps promote the chapters,” Mark Heule, Chapter 237 treasurer, said.

Whether it’s one chapter working as a group or several chapters working together, there’s no doubt that work feels less like work when it’s done in the company of good friends. Although, as Kirk pointed out, while Chapter 237 has a good time, they also “work [their] butts off.”

The work — and fun — has had a positive impact on the chapter. Membership increased as word spread about what 237 gets to do, and with more hands available, the chapter’s volunteer hours have increased, too.

In 2015, Chapter 237 put in roughly 1,000 volunteer hours. That number jumped to 1,900 last year, and this year the chapter has already reached 1,900 as of July.

The opportunity to work on aircraft with other aviation enthusiasts is a great benefit to all chapter members, but at the end of the day the relationships made and strengthened by these work partnerships are far more valuable to the volunteers than the end results of their hard work.

“Airplanes are the common interest, but interests come and go,” Kirk said. “When you get friends, friends can last forever.”

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