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Maine EAA Chapter Gathers Forces to Build a New Hangar
Pat Schmidt, EAA 413169; Minnetonka, MN
March 20, 2015 - Active organizations have a way of getting things done – done on time, done on budget, and done with the help of individuals and the community they live in. The worldwide Experimental Aircraft Association has EAA Chapter 1210 of Biddeford, Maine, in its ranks. Although relatively small, the chapter is nonetheless a definitively active “get it done” organization.
Chapter 1210’s 46 members’ ages range from early 20s to late 80s. Some fly and some don’t. Established 1996 to 1997, the chapter dedicates its time to promote general and recreational aviation in the community and to introduce young people to flying.
In order to better meet their mission, the chapter members began plans in earnest over 10 years ago to raise funds for building their own hangar as a home base to promote aircraft projects, run aviation education programs, and use it for their Young Eagles program. Young Eagles are girls and boys between the ages of 8 and 17. The EAA teaches these youths basic aerodynamics and principles of flight, as well as providing their first flight in a small aircraft.
Since 1992, more than 1.8 million Young Eagles have enjoyed a flight from EAA’s network of volunteer pilots. For many, it was the start of their journey to becoming a pilot, aircraft mechanic, air traffic controller, or many other career possibilities. They’ve introduced thousands – possibly tens of thousands – to the thrill and passion of flying.
Hangars are costly; Chapter President Steve Welch said a lot of money had to be raised to build a 60 foot by 80 foot hangar. “We worked at the International Seaplane Association Fly-In up in Greenville, Maine, and they gave us donations for that,” Welch said. “We got cars, boats – anything we could get for free, then fixed them up and sold them. We had open houses and pancake breakfasts. The community was good at giving us stuff, too.”
Biddeford, located adjacent to the Biddeford Municipal Airport, is a city of about 21,250 people located in York County, southeast Maine, just south of Portland and west of the Saco River, whose waters roll in from the salt waters of Saco Bay to the east. It is the largest city in the county and is the sixth-largest city in the state.
Pouring of the chapter hangar’s foundation began with hopes of completing it over the next year, funds and weather allowing. After a long, cold, snowy winter, the club picked up where it left off. It took several weekend days, a few weekday evenings, and lots of bodies. One by one, the walls for the hangar were constructed, laid out to be raised, and finally erected. By September 24-25, the trusses were put up over the weekend with the help of 15 to 20 volunteers.
With the hangar taking shape, much thought was put into purchasing a quality door for it. Welch was designated to attend the spring Sun ’n Fun International Fly-In & Expo in Lakeland, Florida, to see what hangar door manufacturers had to offer and was given authorization to spend money to buy a door. All other members of EAA 1210 continued to pursue community contributions, member contributions, material donations, and plan fundraisers.
“I talked to all the dealers and told them that the guy with the sharpest pencil was going to get my order,” Welch said. “When we were about to leave for home, I went back to all the guys and asked them what their price was. I told them we had a certain amount of money we could spend on the door and that it took years to raise money to build our hangar.
“Dave Schweiss from Schweiss Bifold Doors, knowing we were a good organization, said he would treat me as good as he could and called his brother Mike, the owner. He sold us a Schweiss bifold door at about half the price of the others.”
Welch told Dave Schweiss that if he could put a Schweiss door on the hangar for a good price, there are 29 more hangars at Biddeford with old barn doors on them for which he would try to sell more Schweiss doors.
Today three more bifold and hydraulic Schweiss doors have been sold at the airport, and a couple more are likely. “Mike was also good about throwing in the lift straps and autolocks,” Welch said. “I was trying to get him to throw in the automatic opener – he wouldn’t do that but gave us a case of caps instead,” chuckled Welch.
In June, the Schweiss bifold door arrived. Preparations for installation on the structure were complete, and members again volunteered their time and installed it minus the skin during a work session on August 11. When October rolled around, the door had finally been skinned and the rest of the aluminum installed on the face of the hangar. All of the members pretty much helped out on something.
“Ordering the bifold style was the best thing we ever did,” Welch said, even though three years later the chapter and other airport dwellers almost had a wrench thrown into their efforts. On November 4, citizens of Biddeford rallied and defeated a ballot item that would have closed the airport.
“We are a community of pilots and aviation enthusiasts who work to preserve and extend the freedom of flight and to knock down barriers to personal aviation,” Welch stressed. “We restore aircraft and do cookouts for the community. At the end of June, the National Guard platoon will use our hangar for a family cookout. We host open houses to raise funds annually for Angel Flights to fund family medical flights; we raise more funds for PALS (Patient Airlift Services), LifeFlights, and others.”
Members donate the use of their aircraft, fuel, and everything required for Young Eagles flights. The chapter has conducted more than 200 rallies over the years.
The chapter hangar houses anything from a 1947 Stinson 108 to a fairly new Cessna 182. In case of a hailstorm or other severe weather, members jam seven or eight planes into it. Otherwise the airport tractor and snow removal equipment gets stored inside while remaining space is rented for two planes, with space left over for restoration projects.Even though the hangar now has a door, much more money is still needed to complete a workshop and meeting room within the hangar. For more information about EAA 1210 or to donate your time, money, or services, you can contact Welch at 207-467-1086 or 207-967-4018, or Chapter Treasurer Vic Chewning at 207-985-1881.