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Dream It and Let Your Spirit Soar

Jim Roberts


July, 2023 — On opening day of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2023, members of the Vintage Aircraft Association (VAA) broke ground for a new Youth Education Building. Opening the ceremony, VAA President Susan Dusenbury commented, “I truly believe we all have a fiduciary duty to disseminate our knowledge to those who follow us.” The facility will house workstations, tools, and exhibits — all designed to open the world of aviation to the next generation.

The program began in 2016, housed in the Vintage Hangar beside the VAA Red Barn. Over the years, attendance outgrew space available, and the VAA began leasing a tent for the activities. Susan recalled, “The tent needed to be bigger. We were just busting at the seams, so many kids were coming out there to do this.”


While families will still find the tent in use this year, starting in 2024 the program will move into its new home. Resembling an aircraft hangar, the 2,400-square-foot insulated and air-conditioned building can house aircraft the size of a Piper Cub or a classic biplane. With an airplane inside, youngsters can learn about aircraft structures and flight controls without outdoor distractions.

Describing the program, Susan said, “The components are, of course, airplanes and airplane construction, their place in history, and their economic impact.” She added there will be ample hands-on learning as well. “Simple things, like the basic components of an engine and how to use things like screwdrivers and drills,” she said. “We teach them how to swage cables, and they can make their own key ring. And we teach them how to make an electrical circuit with battery power, and a light will come on.”


Then Susan emphasized a more profound goal: “We want these kids to have a feeling of community, and values like personal integrity, friendship, patriotism, communication skills, self-esteem, and a sense of belonging.” When asked how you go about this, she replied, “To build character, you have to have people in there with character.”

To that end, VAA has enlisted A.C. Hudson to lead the program. Recently retired from Delta Air Lines, A.C. was instrumental in the success of the late Ron Alexander’s Youth Aviation Program at Peach State Aerodrome.

The VAA youth program has adopted the slogan “Dream it and let your spirit soar,” a sentiment reflected in the eager young faces present every year at AirVenture. Susan reflected, “When I go over there to see how things are going, those kids are really into this stuff. This makes them feel like they’re part of the event, like they belong here, and they are into aviation.”

Estimated cost for the facility is $367,000, which will funded through donations and VAA resources. During AirVenture, donors can visit the VAA Red Barn to purchase an engraved brick, which will be placed outside the new building’s hangar door. You can also send a check to: VAA, P.O. Box 3086, Oshkosh, WI, 54903. On the memo line of the check, write “For Youth Building.” All donations are tax-deductible.

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