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Emergency Aircraft Repair Celebrates 55th Anniversary

July 22, 2017 - Even before EAA AirVenture took place in Oshkosh, the Emergency Aircraft Repair service has been helping pilots with technical difficulties in a variety of ways during the World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration.

Now located in the Emergency Aircraft Repair barn and staffed by EAA Chapter 75, the EAR crew attends to problems both large and small. Thankfully, there are mostly small rather than large issues with the aircraft on the grounds.

More than 40 volunteers staffed the barn during AirVenture 2016, and more than 180 operations were conducted, meaning the staff attended to nearly 200 airplanes (and by extension, pilots) in need. The service that the Emergency Aircraft Repair provides depends on the problem, and on the type of aircraft.

“Sometimes it’s simply answering questions, sometimes it’s directing them to an FBO, sometimes it’s assistance we can help them directly with if it’s a homebuilt or experimental,” Tom Shelton, EAR chairman, said. “Sometimes we can help people find parts. Sometimes we tow airplanes to our area and offer them a place to park.”

The emergency part of the Emergency Aircraft Repair comes from the most pressing task that the volunteers handle: pulling a damaged airplane off the runway when there’s no other way to move it and air traffic continues to flow. Fortunately, that isn’t a common occurrence, Tom said.

“Sometimes there is a great deal of urgency involved,” he said. “Honestly, that’s a rarity. Most of the time, someone will walk up with a dead battery after leaving the power on or something similar to that.”

Even if a problem isn’t a life-threatening one, it doesn’t mean Emergency Aircraft Repair doesn’t take it seriously. Trips to get parts repaired or to pick up deliveries have taken the volunteers to Fond du Lac and even all the way to Milwaukee during the week, all on their own dime.

The idea, initially developed in part through conversations with EAA Founder Paul Poberezny, is worth all of the work it takes to pull off each year. This is the 55th year the Emergency Aircraft Repair service has been at the fly-in convention, and the staff is celebrating that anniversary with ice cream throughout the week, and they are holding a special cake-cutting ceremony on Thursday, July 27, at 1 p.m.

“It’s very interesting work,” Tom said. “We learn a lot, the people we help learn even a little bit more. It’s fun. It’s tiring, but we have a bit of rotation that keeps people fresh and keeps it fun.”

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