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Strengthening & Saving EAA Chapters and Investing in the Future: Making the Case

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TFF

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Flying has always been an expensive hobby. A new 1960 Vette was $4000. A new C150 that year was $8000. Which one would you rather have kept through the years now? In all price ranges, people are not trying it out. As my old boss would say, 100 people he would talk to would say they wanted to learn to fly, 10 would come take lessons, 1 would get a license. You are not getting the 10 much less the one. It’s not necessarily the money, I have seen plenty of 20 year olds blow lots of money on bikes and cars and computers and whatever else.

I think some of it is you have to be a grownup. If you would not be put in jail for flying an RV inverted under an overpass, you would have something. Following rules is not what most 20 year olds want. They want to do a little breaking. Not anarchy but pushing boundaries. Aviation is like a room full of accounts in that regard. It’s like the line in Apollo 13, making going to the moon look like a trip to Cleveland. Trying to convince the passenger public air travel is safe, they took all the fun out of it.
 

cblink.007

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Here is a link to one Maker Space's membership agreement that may help answer that question.

Maybe turn this all around and find a local Maker Space* like this one and just use it as home for the EAA chapter?
Wear EAA t-shirts when at the MS to advertise our hobby.
The MS dues look like they would be a much better investment than the same $'s for EAA chapter dues?

*Thanks Trimtab!
Okay, so now back at home from the honeymoon, I am only now learning of this Maker Space concept. I'm an engineer and never heard of this, but that being said, this concept looks very much inside a chapter's wheelhouse, and looks like an amazing idea.

According to Wikipedia it defines a makerspace “as a community-operated workspace where people with common interests, often in computers, machining, technology, science, digital art or electronic art, can meet, socialize and collaborate.

Given how STEM intensive this looks to be, I see a good tie-in here, fam! Excellent recommendation @Riggerrob !
 
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Protech Racing

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After helping a guy build a V6 Ford engine and ignition/fuel,cooling systems so that it ran( for his Tailwind), I attended his EAA meeting. I was looking to borrow a few hundred pounds of sand bags to stress my ladders in the Tandem wing UL. The old cooters about threw me across the road. Ultralight,Ladders, Foam, GTFO.
I may go back and see what has changed. It's been 12 yrs.
 

cblink.007

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Flying has always been an expensive hobby. A new 1960 Vette was $4000. A new C150 that year was $8000. Which one would you rather have kept through the years now? In all price ranges, people are not trying it out. As my old boss would say, 100 people he would talk to would say they wanted to learn to fly, 10 would come take lessons, 1 would get a license. You are not getting the 10 much less the one. It’s not necessarily the money, I have seen plenty of 20 year olds blow lots of money on bikes and cars and computers and whatever else.

I think some of it is you have to be a grownup. If you would not be put in jail for flying an RV inverted under an overpass, you would have something. Following rules is not what most 20 year olds want. They want to do a little breaking. Not anarchy but pushing boundaries. Aviation is like a room full of accounts in that regard. It’s like the line in Apollo 13, making going to the moon look like a trip to Cleveland. Trying to convince the passenger public air travel is safe, they took all the fun out of it.
Save this thought for the next thread I am piecing together regarding the cost of flying, and some ways to bring it down, and to keep it sustainable! I am working on it.
 
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Aviacs

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Haven't seen mentioned - keep a working relationship with your local FSDO and run a wings program once or twice a year. or just invite a presentation from them. Advertise the date & be sure it is known that your chapter puts on a good spread for food and refreshments. It won't bring the public, but for us it tends to pack the hangar with other chapters' members from a 100+ mi radius as well a local members who otherwise only show up for the annual banquet. Connecting with others is good.

Having flying airplanes that are easily accessible so when someone does get interested, they can start lessons or at least an intro flight is good. Unfortunately EAA National does not support that. They took our charter when we ignored them in the early 2000's and kept flying. It was at that point that we incorporated separately, but it should not be necessary. One more layer of administration and cost stretching what is usually an already thin active volunteer base.

The above also gets to the aging/diminishing aviation population you mentioned, though. 50 years ago it seemed 20% of the pilots in any gathering held CFI ratings. Some of those along with another segment of the pilots in the room would have A & P's & there would be one or 2 IA's. Now as a chapter, we seem to keep burying ours, year by year, and they aren't being replaced. So we have the airplanes and no one to sign them off or instruct in them. For kids, or any age potential recruit, it has to be accessible.

smt
EAA Chapter 533
 
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cblink.007

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Haven't seen mentioned - keep a working relationship with your local FSDO and run a wings program once or twice a year. or just invite a presentation from them. Advertise the date & be sure it is known that your chapter puts on a good spread for food and refreshments. It won't bring the public, but for us it tends to pack the hangar with other chapters' members from a 100+ mi radius as well a local members who otherwise only show up for the annual banquet. Connecting with others is good.

Having flying airplanes that are easily accessible so when someone does get interested, they can start lessons or at least an intro flight is good. Unfortunately EAA National does not support that. They took our charter when we ignored them in the 90's and kept flying. It was at that point that we incorporated separately, but it should not be necessary. One more layer of administration and cost stretching what is usually an already thin active volunteer base.

The above also gets to the aging/diminishing aviation population you mentioned, though. 50 years ago it seemed 20% of the pilots in any gathering held CFI ratings. Some of those along with another segment of the pilots in the room would have A & P's & there would be one or 2 IA's. Now as a chapter, we seem to keep burying ours, year by year, and they aren't being replaced. So we have the airplanes and no one to sign them off or instruct in them. For kids, or any age potential recruit, it has to be accessible.

smt
EAA Chapter 533
I picked up my CFI last year, and have flown a whopping 10.3 hours between two students who lost interest and broke contact with the community! Not good, and I know costs are likely the cause. I need to haul tail on my next commentary thread addressing the costs. Stay tuned, and thank you!
 

Bigshu

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I picked up my CFI last year, and have flown a whopping 10.3 hours between two students who lost interest and broke contact with the community! Not good, and I know costs are likely the cause. I need to haul tail on my next commentary thread addressing the costs. Stay tuned, and thank you!
If you're going to address costs, go for the low hanging fruit, the cost of renting the plane. I don't think anyone gets too worked up about paying a CFI for lessons, but I can rent a late model high performance car for a whole day for what it costs to rent a beater Piper/Cessna/Beechcraft for an HOUR! With unlimited mileage!!!
 

cblink.007

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If you're going to address costs, go for the low hanging fruit, the cost of renting the plane. I don't think anyone gets too worked up about paying a CFI for lessons, but I can rent a late model high performance car for a whole day for what it costs to rent a beater Piper/Cessna/Beechcraft for an HOUR! With unlimited mileage!!!
Don't worry. I'll be starting at the low hanging fruit (what we like to call the 25m target), then progressing to the 500m target line.

I rented a Porsche 911 GT3 at the Hockenheimring in 2014 to hit some laps for a day when I lived out there. When all was said and done, I still spent less than if I took up a run-down Duchess for 3 hours...and that sexy beast from Stuttgart was a '13 model, so I dig your viewpoint!

What's your take on Maker Space?
 

ScaleBirdsScott

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Maker spaces are cool concepts and if the EAA put a big initiative into chapters essentially reformed themselves as the operators of public makerspaces, with an emphasis on aircraft tooling but certainly expanding into facilitating other hobbies and interests, it would definitely be a good way to side-load younger people into being around aircraft production. It might have a small but worthwhile positive yield. And certainly a boon for existing members. (I am ignoring what seems like a very real theory that the EAA would want nothing to do with anything interesting like this from a pure liability standpoint, which is a whole discussion)

There are many challenges with makerspaces. But key, #1, top grade problem with a makerspace is that to honestly be worth using by those who know what they're doing, they really need to have deep backing, ample space, and quality state-of-the-art tools that are leagues beyond what the individual is likely to invest in. Sure a starter makerspace with a modest budget might impress the 19 year old who took a shop class once. But if you're serious about this stuff you likely already own or have moved past using the low-hanging fruit. So a makerspace needs to really be on the upper edge of prosumer grade if not moved fully into industrial-level tooling.

In specific terms:

Not just a hobby CNC router, but the industrial CNC router with vacuum hold-down and quality dust collection and proper safety systems.

Not just a 50 year old Bridgeport, but a modern (post-2000) CNC machining center. Or 3.

Not just 2 or 3 Prusa-clone printers someone put together from a kit, but a selection of the latest printers including resin and carbon fiber printers. (Formlabs and Markforged as examples) Maybe some of the more maker-grade machines with large envelopes for such projects.

Not just a harbor freight hydraulic press bought with the 20% off cupon, but a 50-100 ton press with a pump system and various dies and brakes for it.

Let's add that if it's an aviation based makerspace, that it has some kind of fiberglass layup area and all of the tools, vac pumps, resin storage, etc. (And ideally stocks the consumables for purchase) as well as at that point a whole mold-making shop with foam carving tools, sanding stuff, etc etc.

And certainly toolboxes full of rivet guns, bucking bars, dimple die sets, myriad arrays of fancy specific tools for aircraft metalwork. Ideally enough stuff for 2-3 RV projects to be going concurrently. For that matter maybe some large rivet presses for spars, a hydroforming press, sheet metal tools, etc.

If we're dreaming, a paintbooth big enough for a fuselage or wing.

I know this list sounds quite excessive and demanding. And it is a high bar, which maybe only a few of these areas get focused on at a time. But there's little room to go half-hog on the tooling. It's the main reason I as a customer/patron/member/etc is even bothering. Otherwise, frankly, the question I at least ask myself is "can I just go buy that equipment, or find someone with that particular tool that I can use for the 1-2 times I need it, without the awkwardness and burden of some official membership at a place that will require money, waivers, taking their classes, dealing with their schedules and so on?"

Which leads to the number 2 issue with a makerspace is that you can't just go do the work whenever you want, and using whatever methods you like to employ. Unless you take the time to get admitted into the inner echelons of membership, you're always in someone else's space, under their eye, and subject to their particular flavor of "the way it should be done." And that guidance sometimes is helpful when you are seeking that, sometimes is annoying when you know how to rivet but the person wants to maybe explain it step by step anyway. And that's not even factoring in the all-too-real possibility that whoever is the designated shop-tsar sees you drop a chuck key one time and forever brands you a liability who can't be trusted with a T-square.

So the makerspace needs both the substantial funding to be well-stocked beyond most people's wildest dreams, and then have a cool-enough ownership team that is willing to trust its patrons enough to let them loose with the $40,000 Haas mill without having to have monitors violating the social distancing protocols that existed before March of this year.

L:astly, as a user, you want a makerspace that no-one else is using most of the time, so that you can use the tools whenever you want and as needed. Nothing was more frustrating in college model shop than realizing that both sets of that specific super tool you needed to finish the project happened to be used by other groups. So if you have to book CNC time 2 weeks out, and for only a few hours, because the rest of the schedule is booked full, you really have to know exactly how to ninja your way into the space and get a job done without any delay or hiccups. Otherwise you're gonna time-out and have to clear out and loose your setup. So best if on most days the machines are sitting idle just begging for use and schedules can remain wide open.

Sadly a shop that rarely has customers doesn't justify pouring the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of capital investment into. Unless there is a non-profit motivation for doing this, such as trying to build awareness of something... whatever that could be, hmmm...

So the sad thing is the more general purpose, fancy pants makerspace that would get a lot of interest from the serious makers and do a lot of positive brand building and brand-awareness for one organization that should be 100% about DIY maker ethos, probably is the last thing the EAA is likely to support or fund.

But to be clear here, that would be the type of space that would be perfect for the EAA to fund.

Meanwhile back in reality, what most chapters could swing is maybe something useful, but not probably all that helpful outside of the closed interest of the chapter. IE to those specifically looking to finish an RV/Sonex and save a few bucks. And that's probably a scenario where someone who already bought all the stuff to finish their RV has little further use for it, and donates it to the chapter for whoever to check out as needed. And maybe over time adding a few pieces of capital equipment, cuz "Doug" or whoever was able to score a nice 8ft brake or a jump shear at an auction or from work. And that's fine, in fact it's honestly quite excellent! But that's hardly worth the effort to rebrand it as a makerspace, IMO. It's just some communal tools for members to use as needed for specific purpose and likely with the sort of budgets involved shouldn't be lent out to just anyone.


EAA could go down this road, even if it was just negotiating some super sweet package deals for equipment and tooling and so-on, plus some grants, so that chapters could find local investors and city boards willing to go along with the initiative. If the central body was pushing it and there was some serious backing (ie not just the 3 local pilots who are "really super passionate y'all") then I could see town and city boards being pretty receptive to the idea even.

I know for sure that there's a massive push in the US right now, not sure if explicit or implied, to put a huge emphasis on training for manufacturing and bring more high-tech production home. Piggybacking on this effort and letting the big money do it's thing with the right branding and message layered on top, might be a possible success story?
 
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BJC

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In this regard; there is a Location available in one's HBA profile. Fill it it if you'd like a visit!
I encourage everyone to provide a full set of profile information. It certainly helps me understand some of the posts.


BJC
 

Victor Bravo

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For whatever my opinion may be worth, I think some kind of hybrid between a makerspace and the typical EAA pancake-geezer chapter is a good start. Having a full bad-ass industrial level makerspace like Scott is saying sounds great (And may be the future), but no EAA chapter I ever heard of can afford it, and second the old geezers that comprise 3/4 of the chapters can figure out how to run, manage, or maintain that stuff. When Addicted2Climbing becomes a billionaire with the new products he is pioneering, then maybe I can convince him to retire and run a full modern makerspace at our airport with high end equipment.

Until then, my idea is to simply hijack and kidnap the cool concept and the specific parts of a makerspace that are directly relevant to inexpensive entry level airplanes, and combine it with the sizzle that airplanes represents, to attract younger people.

Come up with a clever concept name for it... FlightSpace or AirSpace or something. The marketing campaign would focus on the idea that "some makerspaces let you build a Flight Sim gizmo so you can pretend you're flying... kinda cool This one helps you build something that leaves the Earth's surface with you in it... way cool. Are you up for this?".

The key to this in my mind is that you leverage what's still cool about airplanes, and leverage the fact that young people support and identify with the makerspace concept.

As a matter of fact, I think I'm going to incorproate the concept of an aviation-specific makerspace into our upcoming EAA chapter 750 build project.
 

BJC

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and combine it with the sizzle that airplanes represents, to attract younger people.
VB, I think that a huge part of the problem is that airplanes no longer have sizzle for young people.

It’s not just airplanes either. Many of the things that our generation did when we were young are no longer of any interest to today’s youth.

BJC
 
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Wayne

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Have to be brief - Headed to the airport so don't have much time, and didn't read every word of this thread but in EAA 461 we have at least generally achieved the goals in the OP, particularly in the realm of youth engagement. That said I am actually resigning as EAA 461 President for 2021 to get new blood into the drivers seat as we must have change and innovation to improve - and I am no longer bringing that value. With the chunk of time saved I'm going to be working direct with my Mentee (15 years old) so that she and I can kick off an improved version of the kids club we started in the EAA Chapter a few years ago. I intend for this new kids group to be broader than Experimental Aircraft - we must meet our audience where it exists. It will still be focused, mind you, on flying and the opportunity that flying brings. I'll happily keep you folks updated if this all works out the way I hope it does and it will help the OP down the road.
 

Kyle Boatright

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The makerspace concept is neat for the hardcore aircraft builder who starts with chunks of steel and aluminum, blocks of foam, or a few sticks of spruce. But that group is the 1% of the 1% of the 1%. In other words, if you're looking to grow EAA or chapters, that ain't the way to do it. 95% (thoroughly vetted, 100% accurate guess) of builders are building a kit of some sort, and a lot more potential EAA members own antiques and aren't at the point of building an airplane. But many of them are interested in learning to do some work on their airplane(s) to defray the cost.

So if you're looking to grow a movement, provide what people want - entertainment and camaraderie. Aviation content and a place to hang out. Someone at the chapter hangar who can show you how to change the oil on your 172 or drive a rivet on an RV project. A fun fly-out for folks who have access to airplanes.
 

cblink.007

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The makerspace concept is neat for the hardcore aircraft builder who starts with chunks of steel and aluminum, blocks of foam, or a few sticks of spruce. But that group is the 1% of the 1% of the 1%. In other words, if you're looking to grow EAA or chapters, that ain't the way to do it. 95% (thoroughly vetted, 100% accurate guess) of builders are building a kit of some sort, and a lot more potential EAA members own antiques and aren't at the point of building an airplane. But many of them are interested in learning to do some work on their airplane(s) to defray the cost.

So if you're looking to grow a movement, provide what people want - entertainment and camaraderie. Aviation content and a place to hang out. Someone at the chapter hangar who can show you how to change the oil on your 172 or drive a rivet on an RV project. A fun fly-out for folks who have access to airplanes.
Like I previously stated, 24 hours ago, I had no clue what MakerSpace was. But the last few posts placed it into perspective. On many military installations, there are "Hobby Shops", which are essentially woodshops, where you can go do DIY wood projects. No membership is needed, and you simply pay for your shop use by the hour, as well as for any materials you bought. Granted, you need to attend an annual day-long safety course to retain your privledges, but here is the problem. At all these places, you have a supervisor micro-managing your work, no matter how skilled you are (just as @ScaleBirdsScott indicated), but worse, I have been to some of these shops that were literally cluttered with unfinished patron projects.

@Victor Bravo had a good point in hijacking some of the concepts that are useful to us and do it that way. Makes more sense.

But all in all, I agree with your viewpoint with respect to keeping it simple. It must be!

I had this commanding officer, who recently retired as a Major General (2 star), that once said sometning at a staff meeting that stuck with me:

"An elite organization is one that can perform the most basic tasks to absolute perfection."

So let me ask the participants here; what functions in a chapter do you consider the most basic? What do you see as absolutely required to keep the group alive and well? Let's forget about builds, fly outs, MakerSpace and such; those are all wants. What are the needs??
 

BBerson

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I don't know anyone that tinkers with a CNC that actually built an airplane. My friend has a hand lathe and a hand mill and a drill press and has built 22 model engines from scratch. The last is a 7 cylinder radial. He likes that..
Peter Garrison built a plane in a 8' garage. I have an open shed.
The standard idea that official shops, airport hangars, homes on airports... just isn't practical for entry.
 

BJC

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It would be nice if chapter members who own expensive and or specialized tools were willing to allow other members to use them, under supervision.

A list on the web site, or included with the list of chapter tools, could facilitate it.


BJC
 

Twodeaddogs

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When I see how much time is lost in projects,having to get something drilled or milled or wired up or bent or heated or painted, because something has cropped up that needs attention, it is so helpful to have access to tools, instead of having to abandon the job. If I can go to a makerspace,pay a schoolkid a few bob to make or fix something for me that shaves my wasted off,then that works for me.
 
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