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Volunteering at Sun ’n Fun

By Ian Brown, Editor – Bits and Pieces, EAA 657159

Charlie Becker, EAA’s director of Chapters and Communities, and Homebuilt Community manager, e-mailed me to ask if I’d be willing to volunteer at EAA’s booth during Sun ’n Fun International Fly-In & Expo this year. I accepted the challenge and was scheduled to help man the section of the booth related to the promotion of homebuilding.

EAA’s “One Week Wonder” was on display, proudly showing the signatures of the 2,000-plus people who had pulled a rivet or otherwise helped to build the actual aircraft at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014. Doing that was a major undertaking, and the effort at Sun ’n Fun was a somewhat scaled-back equivalent.

One of the two stations demonstrated how a pulled rivet works. The attendees were given a description, using a nicely designed graphic display. They were invited to pull a rivet on a panel set up for the purpose and then look at the back of the panel to see how their effort had worked.

At Sun ’n Fun, we were assembling a Onex – single-seat version of the Sonex. Although quite a number of people came up and asked if they could pull a rivet, we explained that this airframe was just for demonstration and that it would be dismantled at the end of the week. We followed the plans, and as I left, we had a lot of the fuselage clecoed together.

Doing this is a great way to encourage people to consider building an aircraft. We were able to dish out lots of advice from our varied personal experiences, ranging from making sure you do a little every day, to not spending too much time on learning how to become an avionics technician if there is a wiring harness you can use or have made professionally.

Several homebuilders came over and just wanted to chat about a range of topics not directly related to building. Manning this part of the EAA booth also allowed the volunteers to share experiences.

Although there was a major temptation just to get on building the Onex with my head down in the plans and cleco pliers in hand, the purpose of this demonstration was to reach out. We had to resist the natural tendency of getting on with the build, at least when there was someone ready to make eye contact.

Volunteering on this project presented opportunities to enjoy the best that EAA has to offer – meeting other current and would-be aircraft builders and sharing experiences and ideas. One particularly memorable discussion involved a young military pilot who was building time in helicopters, but he was also beginning to build an RV-8. He was like a sponge and only left the booth when the conversation ran out of steam. If he’s reading this, good luck with the RV-8 and with your flying career.

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