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Celebrating 50 Years of Chapter 187, Texas-Style
By Fi Dot
September 2015 - On a hot summer Texas morning, I am driving to Georgetown Airport for our regular chapter meeting. This time, it’s a special one.
Our president has been researching the chapter’s history, and it turned out we had missed our 50th birthday! So we decided to celebrate it this year, during our 51st.
Researching the EAA publications, it seems that 1963 would be the year when the newest chapter number was 186, and the first mentioning of the formation of Chapter 187 is from 1964. So, in lieu of a better record, we take it that we passed the 50-year mark in 2014.
One of the most prominent chapter founders was no one else but Tony Bingelis himself. He’s mostly known for his “Tony’s 4” — the four books on airplane building that rightfully occupy the “Bible of Homebuilding” spot in any airplane builder’s bookcase.
Tony grew up in Maine and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in the 1940s. He served there throughout his career. By one account, Tony started building his first airplane in the 1960s while stationed in Japan. By another, it was in the 1930s (he was just more than 10 years old back then) and it was a glider.
Starting in the 1950s, Tony volunteered his help and services to EAA in various capacities. It culminated in him writing 299 consecutive articles for Sport Aviation’s “The Designee Corner” column, which he churned out monthly. Two hundred ninety-nine consecutive months — that’s almost 25 years of writing!
Tony passed away in 2001, and we have a few personal accounts of him posted on the chapter’s blog.
I get into the airport’s meeting room, where the chairs have been diligently lined up by Haruko and Rob, our current president and treasurer. Folks are coming in, most of them familiar faces: Stu McCurdy of Falcon Flight formation team (you’ve seen them at AirVenture); Deene Ogden and Seth Hancock, our longtime tech counselors; John “Beej” Nunn, creator of the Biplane Forum; and other chapter members. Some guests from nearby chapters show up as well and we begin.
Haruko talks about Paul Poberezny and his humility and love for other people.
Rob recites some of the facts from Tony’s history of service in the Army Air Corps and his many contributions to EAA.
A few folks who have been around for a while come up and recollect their experiences from being early chapter members. The most interesting to me are the stories of Deene Ogden and Seth Hancock, both members from the earliest days who had spent lots of time with Tony. Seth talks about Tony buying a new house, with the main criteria being having a good-size garage — usable as an “airplane construction factory.”
Jeffrey Klaas steps up. He was the president in the early 1990s and talks about the chapter a little bit. He pulls out a couple of the chapter’s member rosters and shows the awesome graphics one of the members did for all of the newsletters of Chapter 187, “The 187th Air Force.”
We unwrap the 50th anniversary plaque from the EAA headquarters and head outside for a group shot. The intense Texas sun beats down upon us. It’s more than a hundred degrees outside! We fix that with some ice cream.
Just after the ice cream, I bump into Brad Bellamy, one of the older chapter members, and he hands me a treasure: a pile of old newsletters and other memorabilia! I scanned them over the days, and the archive is now available.
The membership is large, and we have quite a number of “weekend warriors” in their garages and hangars riveting, cutting, welding, and painting away.
John “Beej” Nunn is almost done with his Skybolt, figuring being about a year and a half away on a 9-year-to-date project. Beej started the now wildly popular Biplane Forum when he couldn’t find a good online resource to help him build his plane.
Stu McCurdy is diligently practicing and training his RV formation, Falcon Flight, which started as him teaching a few of the local chapter members some formation flying.
Jimmy Cox and yours truly are busy with Rockdale Tiger Flight, a group of kids and adults learning to build airplanes with our RV-6 and Zenith CH-601 projects, and running a perpetual weekend Young Eagles rally.
And of course, Pete Christensen is buzzing around in his Kitfox.
Now, it’s time for us to go flyin’!