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Exudes Passion: Bob McLaughlin, EAA 188831
April 2015 - Bob McLaughlin is one of those EAA volunteers you wish you could clone, maybe because it seems that he’s been lending a hand in many areas for many years. There’s a passion for aviation there, built on his own experience and that of his father, a career Air Force man who was an engineer/gunner in B-17s and later a flight engineer in B-29s and KC-97s. Bob also got his own taste of military aviation as a jet engine mechanic.
Shortly after his military discharge, Bob obtained his A&P license. He then relocated from Boston to Wisconsin, eventually finding a career in manufacturing since aviation jobs at the time were hard to come by. The aviation bug never left, though, which led him to discover EAA.
Bob first found the Appleton, Wisconsin, EAA chapter in 1981 and immediately got involved in a restoration project. He later served as the chapter’s treasurer.
Around EAA headquarters, though, Bob is probably most familiar for his years of work at the Weeks Hangar. It started on the B-17, well before the aircraft began its national tours and was an ongoing restoration project, when it wasn’t in the museum. In the early 1990s, when the Combat Jets Museum collection arrived in Oshkosh, Bob helped with the T-33 and the two F-86s that came from Texas as part of the collection. His role was everything from engine and airframe inspections to crew repositioning, painting and more.
There were some perks involved with that, such as flying with Paul Poberezny. There was also the time former EAA maintenance chief Verne Jobst took Bob along for a flight to Minnesota in the Spirit of St. Louis replica. On the way, they spotted a beautiful grass airstrip. Seizing the opportunity, they made a quick landing – at the perfect moment to be the unexpected highlight of an EAA chapter picnic.
Most recently, Bob had a one of kind opportunity to not only restore EAA’s J-1 Standard which flew for the first time last summer, completing a project that began when he helped disassemble and transport that aircraft to Oshkosh years before.
Along with his regular Weeks Hangar service, Bob has supported the AirVenture workshops as a co-chair for more than 20 years and before that, helping in aircraft parking.
Despite all this, Bob still enjoys his own flying time. He currently owns a Cessna Skyhawk, in which he now gets to install the love of flight to his grandkids. Bob is an outstanding example of how serving as an EAA volunteer not only helps make EAA better, it brings friendships and experiences beyond anything one could imagine when you start. Thanks, Bob!