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Spruce Creek Chapter Leadership Boot Camp: A Success by Any Measure
By Brett Hahn, EAA 647675
February 25, 2016 - EAA chapter leaders traveled from as far as Texas and Connecticut to participate in the first-ever Chapter Leadership Boot Camp to be held at Spruce Creek Airpark in Florida.
Charlie Becker, Kyle Voltz, and I flew into Orlando (along with throngs of vacationers) on Thursday, and were met by clear blue skies, temps in the mid-70s and a sea breeze gently wafting over us from the east coast. Our first stop was Titusville for a quick chat at Smilin’ Jack Chapter 866. We met 866’s new president Les Boatright and toured their recently renovated facilities. Chapter 866 has quite a unique story, stay tuned for an upcoming article featuring their interesting history.
Spruce Creek is a very energetic airpark just 10 miles south of Daytona Beach Florida. Originally a U.S. Navy airfield during World War II, it is now home to 5,000 aviation enthusiasts, 1,300 homes, and 700 hangars. The Creek as residents call it, has a championship golf course that threads throughout the airpark.
The heart of Spruce Creek (7FL6 on your sectional) is the 4,000-foot-long asphalt runway (5-23), that is 150 feet wide. Attached to it is more than 14 miles of taxiways that wind through the various subdivisions to hangar-homes.
On Friday we met our Chapter 288 hosts at the Downwind Café, Spruce Creek’s iconic gathering place that is standing room only from early breakfast to late evening after the sunset. Custom jacked up golf carts pack the restaurant parking area, they are the preferred mode of transportation in the Creek along with bicycles and numerous walking paths.
Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. a migration starts. The Creek community gathers en masse under the “Big Tree” (a 150-year-old Spanish Live Oak) adjacent to the runway to witness the Friday Night Gaggle Flights. There were hundreds of golf carts gathered under the Big Tree, many had makeshift tables and tablecloths set up for wine and cheese.
Next to the Big Tree is the old crosswind runway (now Cessna Blvd), where dozens of airplanes queued up to participate in formation flights. The variety just boggled my mind, Twins, various light-sport aircraft, RVs, a Starduster, five Swearingen SX-300s, a beautiful Stinson 108, all nose-to-tail. One after another, the formation flights roared overhead with multiple passes to the delight of those gathered with cameras pointed up to the evening sky.
Chapter 288’s Technical Counselor and Flight Advisor Keith Phillips (who routinely flies a red SX-300 and 400-hp Pitts Model-12) offered up his hangar, which doubles as the Chapter 288 meeting area, for the boot camp. Keith’s hangar was hangar was spacious and comfortable. On the walls were stunning air-to-air shots of chapter members’ airplanes in formation and, if you were in a competitive mood, dual dart boards hung on the west wall—leave your wallet behind.
A perfect Saturday morning greeted us for the Chapter Leadership Boot Camp. Some attendees had flown on Friday, and many more came today. Hot coffee and pastries were served by Chapter 288 newsletter editor and secretary Bonnie Powell and her hospitality team. From arranging lodging to keeping us fed and watered, Bonnie and her team did an outstanding job throughout the week and I cannot thank them enough for their efforts.
We were quite fortunate to have so many chapter leaders in attendance Saturday, more than 20 chapters were represented, many two to three deep. Also in the audience were EAA board member Rick Weiss, a Chapter 288 member, tech Counselor and flight Advisor; and also Barry Davis, former Chapter 976 president, vice president, young eagles director, newsletter editor, treasurer, and co-founder of the EAA Chapter 976 Aviation Learning Center in Carrolton, Georgia.
We presented numerous leadership topics during the morning and afternoon sessions that included; 7 Habits of Successful Chapters, Growing Chapter Membership, Non-Profit Basics, Web and Facebook for Chapters, Chapter Insurance, Media Tips for Chapters, Youth Protection, Eagle Flight Program, and Fundraising for Chapters. These topics are also presented at our EAA Chapter Leadership Academies held in Oshkosh. The next scheduled Academy is April 22-24.
The participation was lively with many questions fielded and chapter best practices shared. By the end of the day the chapter leaders were energized with new knowledge, resources, and ideas to carry back home and help grow their chapters. Even though most had just met that day, they chatted like old friends during breaks and at the catered dinner Saturday night.
Sunday dawned clear and calm. Hangar doors opened, there was the sound of engines coughing to life in the crisp air. We all went flying in the morning sun.
Our Heartfelt thanks goes out to our EAA Chapter 288 hosts and volunteers:
David and Marsha Gitelman
Keith and Linda Phillips
Dennis and Bonnie Powell
Chris and Isabelle Martin
Jack and Monica Ditmars
John and Melissa Wilson
Mike and Diane Kelly
Ted and Li-Fen Chang
Greg and Vicki Rhyne
Rick and Brenda Weiss
The wonderful staff at the Downwind Café