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Chapter Award Winners Recognized During AirVenture 2021
September 2021 – The following awards were presented to some of our most outstanding chapter members/officers and Young Eagles volunteers during AirVenture 2021:
Our chapter newsletter editors are tasked with gathering content for each month’s issue, putting it all together in an eye-catching format, and disseminating it to readers. When choosing this award, we look at general appearance as well as quality of content. It takes commitment and dedication to produce a high-quality monthly newsletter. The chapter newsletter is an avenue for sharing important announcements, chapter news/photos, educational articles, area fly-in opportunities, etc. This past year perhaps more than ever, chapter newsletters were one of the most important ways of keeping members connected. This year, we chose three award winners in this category.
- Mary Ann Alvarado of Chapter 524, Frederick, Maryland, with The Frederick Flyer
- Rich Fraser of Chapter 320, Watertown, Wisconsin, with The Rock River Flier
- Jim Cunningham of Chapter 252, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, with The Pylon
It is the job of chapter web editors to maintain the chapter website, keeping its content fresh and up-to-date. As we emphasize during chapter leadership training, this is a big deal when the chapter website is often the first place folks will look for more information about the chapter. Here, they often receive their first impression of a chapter. The most important information such as the next meeting date and location needs to be readily apparent. It should be easy to navigate and not cluttered. In addition to chapter information, chapters often use it to share useful links, calendars of aviation events, photos, builder’s logs, etc. These are all things we look for when choosing winners. This year, we had two.
- Phillip Johnson of Chapter 245, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
- Bill Rantanen of Chapter 320, Watertown, Wisconsin
Winners of this award are selected for their EAA and chapter dedication, service to the aviation community, and their personal achievements. This year, we had three
Ernie has been an EAA member for over 35 years. For the last 25 years, he’s been an active member of EAA Chapter 292 in Independence, Oregon. In 1997-98, he was one of a team that built 292’s 6,000 square-foot clubhouse which has since grown to 8,500 square feet. He has been a member of the board of directors in various roles for many years.
In 2016-17, he managed a youth program that built a Sonex. One young lady from the team has gone on to earn a mechanical engineering degree. Another, from a minority group, has just received his ag pilot certificate. A second young lady earned her pilot certificate, and one young man is now an A&P mechanic. The Sonex was sold to another club member and the profits supported the next youth build.
He has built or majorly overhauled eight airplanes, with his latest a full-scale replica of a World War I DH.2 fighter. This project took him eight years of research and building. It is the only flying full-scale DH.2 in the world.
Ernie is one of the busiest technical counselors in EAA, having inspected over 650 airplanes. He not only inspects, but also offers helpful advice. He is known as a stickler but those who have finished their airplanes according to his advice have gone on to fly them safely. He is the go-to man for small engine issues, including two-cycle, aircraft and automotive. He is also the club’s fabric expert. His advice is sought throughout the entire Willamette Valley of Oregon. For his work as a tech counselor, he received the Tony Bingelis Award in 2017.
EAA Chapter 105 is proud to recognize one of its original members. You know him for the aircraft company and airplane designs he is famous for, but some of us know him for his quiet, determined leadership in EAA as well. Usually known as Dick or "Van,” Richard VanGrunsven learned to fly in 1956 at the age of 16. He has logged well over 12,000 hours (the majority of it in airplanes of his own design) and holds CFI, multi-engine, and ATP ratings.
In 1961, Van attended a chapter organizational meeting just before leaving to serve in the U.S. Air Force, so he wasn’t around for the first three years of the chapter’s existence. But when he returned home in the mid-‘60s, he rejoined and almost immediately became president of the chapter. He served a second stint as president in the late 1960s.
Van’s many forms of involvement with the chapter over the years have been quite extensive. He built the RV-5 in the mid-‘70s with a group from the chapter. Over time he has remained actively involved, given numerous technical presentations, and served as a board member for about the last 20 years. In the ‘80s and ‘90s he helped lead a special interest group within the chapter called the Design Group, along with a handful of others. In the early 2000s he led the Little Gee Bee restoration, and he recently championed an RV-12iS group project that ended with great success and the formation of a new flying club.
Van has been a truly strong supporter of the chapter, always providing (mostly) quiet leadership in the background in order to help ensure the chapter’s direction is strong. Van is a passionate advocate of the EAA chapter structure and the overall strength of the EAA organization.
Vern is a retired Air Force pilot, Young Eagles pilot, active Chapter 530 member and past president, and inspiration for many in aviation. Vern inspired neighboring Chapter 179’s Aviation Academy by continually asking, “What can we do for these Young Eagles that return year after year?” He tracked and analyzed data and noticed just how frequently some Young Eagles returned. He wanted to engage them to keep them in aviation. Vern was instrumental in making that first year summer program happen and was actively involved in planning, providing expertise, printing workbooks, and providing props the chapter still uses today (gyro demo wheel, a sim, etc.)!
Vern donated his personal time, fuel, and airplane for Young Eagles events at multiple chapters over many years. Vern introduced over 350 youth to aviation through Young Eagles flights, served as Young Eagles coordinator, and contributed to EAA 179’s aviation scholarship fund. He got his chapter to send a student to Air Academy and assured that if they don’t have a candidate, they donate their credits to a neighboring chapter in support of Air Academy tuition. He recruited a 17-year-old repeat Young Eagle to get involved. Matt served as president, helping revive Chapter 530, and pursued becoming an A&P.
Vern learned to fly a T-6 in the Air Force in 1952. He was disappointed not to go to Korea. In 1970, he flew the O-2 in Vietnam to find targets and deploy smoke targets for the fighters to take aim. With 25 years in the Air Force, he retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1978. His last years were flying a Convair 440 to transport Air Force personnel, which he says was not the most exciting except for when he got a call after landing in Grand Junction, Colorado. Oil analysis had proved one engine was near catastrophic failure.
Interestingly, Vern learned about EAA when he picked up EAA Sport Aviation magazine in the library while he was in Vietnam. He thought “Hmm, this sounds interesting.” He joined when he returned home.
He became a partner in 1971 in the Piper Comanche he flies today with his son and good friend. The North 40 at AirVenture has been Vern’s family’s gathering camp spot for many years. EAA runs in his blood and he has passed it on to his pilot son and most of his non-flying family. Vern is well respected, continues to fly regularly, participates in most events hosted by EAA 530 and 179, share ideas, and does all he personally can to promote general aviation and energize others.
Congratulations to all our 2021 Chapter Award winners!