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Give Flight Homebuilts Wing Back to Oshkosh

By Hal Bryan

July 27, 2017 - At AirVenture Oshkosh 2015, more than 2,000 visitors, supervised by a group of volunteers, constructed five sets of wings that were donated to EAA chapters. This year, two of those wing sets flew back, attached to completed airplanes, thanks to the efforts of EAA Chapter 461 in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and Chapter 84 in Snohomish, Washington.

The idea behind the project — known as Give Flight — was simple: Enable chapters to take on an aircraft project and, once it was finished, to form a flying club around it. Zenith donated three sets of wings, including sets for a 750 Cruzer that went to Chapter 461 and Chapter 245 in Ottawa, Ontario, and a set for a CH 650, which was donated to Chapter 84. In addition, Van’s aircraft donated a set of RV-12 wings, which went to Chapter 27 in Meriden, Connecticut, and Sonex contributed a set for a Waiex, which was donated to Chapter 555 — the “triple nickel” — in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Once the chapters received their wings, they made arrangements to purchase the remainder of the kits and establish group build projects. While chapters 27, 245, and 555 have all made considerable progress on their builds, 461 and 84 were able to push through and get their airplanes built, signed off, and test flown in time for the trip to AirVenture 2017. It was a photo finish, however, as both groups reported they’d finished flying off their required test time mere days before setting out for Oshkosh.

Gary Wilkins, EAA 883043, was thrilled that the 750 Cruzer he’d helped build with Chapter 461 made it to Oshkosh.

“I’m in awe,” he said. “It was a lot of work. I put 640 hours in it.” But, Gary was quick to point out that it was a team effort. In fact, Chapter 461 used the project as the basis for an educational outreach program, getting scores of kids involved in the build.

“We fly Young Eagles every month,” Gary said. “They’d learn how to rivet. First they go learn to rivet, and then they can pop some rivets” before taking their flight.

Jim McGauhey, EAA 561778, was also excited to have it made it to Oshkosh, flying the CH 650 some 1,400 miles in four days from the Pacific Northwest.

“It’s a real sense of accomplishment,” he said. “In February of 2015, Charlie Becker says, ‘This is what we’re going to do … We’ll give five sets of wings away.’ I just waved my hands in the e-mail, and said ‘Charlie, pick me!’”

Once chapter build projects like these are complete, ownership of the airplanes is transferred to a separate entity. Members of Chapter 84 formed a five-member flying club called SnoFly, while the builders from 461 have created Access Aero, which still has some open positions. If you’re interested in joining, visit www.AccessAero.org or call 331-253-2226.

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