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Aircraft Project Donation Is the Catalyst to Chapters' Newest Activity
By Art, EAA 852427, and Joyce, EAA 768728, Woods, Chapter 179
November 2020 – Familiar with our strong group of RV builders, Albuquerque Chapter 179 was asked by EAA HQ in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to consider accepting a potential aircraft donation project by a family near Carrizozo, New Mexico. Lee Otto, local RV-10 builder, and wife Jeri Burzin made the trek at the end of June 2020 and found the family anxious to move the partial aircraft kits. The RV-12 wings were nearly complete but the fuselage crate remained unopened since now deceased New Mexico builder James (Jim) Crouse purchased the kit.
Once EAA deferred the gift to Chapter 179, Konrad Werner immediately organized to retrieve it. He borrowed a truck from famed airshow performer Bob Carlton and an enclosed trailer from the New Mexico Pilots Association. Builders Gwen Walcott, Dan Horschel, and Randy Reimer made themselves available to complete the retrieval team. It was a full day, driving 400 miles, meeting the family, doing heavy lifting, and careful packing, but all was unloaded and borrowed vehicles were back in place by nightfall.
"Both my dad and husband were formerly EAA members," Dena Coelho, Jim's daughter, said. "I am a pilot as well. We are thankful for all the great memories in our different airplanes, so many airshows, and the camaraderie of the pilots and builders! We are just as thrilled that these kit parts will be put to use."
A 20-year Navy veteran and pilot deployed on the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea during the Vietnam War, Jim was decorated with 19 air medals. He was truly an aviator and builder we would have enjoyed knowing.
In July, our Board of Directors officially launched the project with teams focusing on the build, resources (hangar space and financials), and formation of a future flying club. By mid-August we had shop space, a core build team, and began collecting tools. With all events including our annual Land of Enchantment Fly-In cancelled, we recognized the challenge to raise funds for remaining kits.
On August 26, Adam Coffey in Fullerton, California, posted a classified ad on Van's Airforce offering his completed RV-12 empennage for sale or he'd consider giving it to an EAA chapter.
We responded to the ad, as did Konrad Werner, confident we'd find someone in our chapter to drive the 800 miles to California to pick it up. We felt urgency to commit, since Adam obviously wanted to do something quickly.
Thanks to past networking amongst EAA chapters, we contacted Jim O'Brien, President of EAA Chapter 1 at Flabob. He was busy but answered our phone call and connected us with Brian Duffield. Within 5 minutes, Brian was set to drive to Fullerton to claim it for Chapter 179. By noon, we had possession of a finished empennage kit, albeit in Brian's hangar in Riverside, California!
Incredible as it may sound, this dedicated EAA 1 member Brian convinced his wife Susan to take an 800 mile road trip to Albuquerque, see some sights, and visit family along the way. They delivered the empennage less than a week after the ad appeared in the popular Van's forum. We enjoyed a distanced outdoor dinner with them, and especially appreciated their demonstration of true EAA spirit!
Within two months, these fortuitous donations mobilized an otherwise COVID sidelined chapter to one with an aircraft build project in a well-equipped workshop! The initial call for volunteers for the build team identified at least 18 interested members, several otherwise inactive and a few youth members.
Thanks to the Coffey and Crouse donations, the "can do" EAA chapter network, and shop space provided by Bode Aviation, we're on our way to generating that famous "RV grin"!