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

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Toobuilder

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Throwing my 2 cents in by stating up front that I have absolutely no idea what it will take to "grow" aviation beyond simply doing more of it myself. That said, I quite literally grew up with EAA. My old man was a founder and chapter president of the chapter in our town and held meetings in his garage. It was a perfectly normal childhood to have a dozen or so strangers over on wednesday nights in your garage talking about homebuilt airplanes, and I found it odd that other school children didnt have airplanes at home.

The last EAA meeting I went to when I moved to the Edwards AFB area 20 years ago had NOBODY building anything. The guest speaker that night was a Shutle pilot or something and I was wondering what in the hell did this have to do with homebuilding? I was restoring a wood wing Mooney and a Tailwind, and building a Starduster Too at the time. I was about 30, with no money, yet all these "old guys" with disposable income were doing NOTHING but telling stories about the good old days and (apparently) looking for an excuse to get away from their wives for a few hours. Ok, same tired, worn out EAA chapter bashing story over...

So back to reality. I try to encourage my co workers to jump into flying by giving rides, and telling stories about my weekend flying adventures - the "hook" is to show the practical side of the cool activity that is GA. Almost without exception, my co workers are genuinely interested, financially capable, yet just wont make the jump. They'd much rather spend 150k on a boat, motorhome, or toybox full of dirtbikes than spend 10k on flight training and a 30k airplane. Why? I have NO IDEA.

But I am of the opinion that getting them to an EAA chapter isnt going to do it unless free strippers are involved, and for the life of me, I cant figure out what would get ME out of my hangar and to a Chapter meeting. Almost everyone I know is building multiple airplanes or are in the aviation industry in some significant way. But I do know that the fastest growing segment of GA is our homebuilt community, and BY FAR, the heavy hitter here is Van. Figure out how to duplicate that overwhelming success among the homebuilders who "hate" RV's and we are golden. JMHO.
 
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Twodeaddogs

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set yourselves a challenge in your Chapter: do ten new or different things this year. Introduce a new technology; bring a female flying (get more women involved); organise a fly-out to a new place,which involves an off-airport activity; build an engine, even if all you do is run it on a stand (a VW or a small two-stroke); carve and run a propellor; if you have to move or retrieve an aircraft, get more people involved; cast something (we had a member cast and turn a wheel);build a half VW.........do something! We organised a photographic competition one time, had the results judged by a professional aircraft photgrapher and awarded a small prize. Great fun and laughs all round. We've also done visits to our nearby Air base and airline maintenance hangars. they are hard to set up but they are always oversubscribedand they always generate positive results.Don't stagnate.
 

Toobuilder

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So what is the goal here? Is it to build Chapter attendence (for it's own sake), or build aviation "doers"? I mean, I'm fairly active in GA, yet I have no need whatsoever for chapter meetings. If I need a social fix on a Wednesday night I have PLENTY of options... I'd rather be in my hangar, you know... Building something.
 

BJC

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wrt building:

I agree with most of what has been written in this thread.

I support the EAA and AOPA, even though each has characteristics that frustrate me. Same with the Sun n Fun fly-in / expo/ showcase / whatever they are calling it today.

I think that the lack of building HBA has nothing to do with the EAA, AOPA, EAA chapters, etc. People who want to build will find a way to build. People who don't really want to build will find excuses forever for not building. Cost, space, tools, time, EAA shortcomings, EAA chapter programs, old farts, etc. are convenient, easy excuses.

Some build, some don't. People do what they want to do, not what I think that they should do.


BJC
 

Pops

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Can't start a new EAA Chapter in this state. NO new non-profits approved by the state. I had 32 people wanting to start a chapter a few years ago and 6 different lawyers said it will not happen with the state. The couple chapter in this state was started a long time ago. I helped start Chapter 614 where I used to live in about 1973.
 

Hot Wings

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Given how STEM intensive this looks to be, I see a good tie-in here, fam!
I had a chance to talk to my brother yesterday. He is a teacher and was once on the board for the local Science Zone - an interactive science museum - and is still kind of plugged into the operation. They were just given an industrial building that they don't know what to do with.
Bro also mentioned that there are lots of grants available for this kind of STEM activity. Just takes someone that knows the system, and has the time, to get the ball rolling.

and quality state-of-the-art tools that are leagues beyond what the individual is likely to invest in.
<< >>
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.
Tend to disagree with this. For guys like us that may seem like a requirement. For me I'd like to be able to use a (even hobby grade) machine that I really only need occasionally without having to invest in the machine or the space to store it when not in use. I can't afford everything I'd like to be able to use.
Example: I'd really like access to an older, but functional, 10 foot brake. I 'need' it maybe for a couple of hours twice a year. I could buy, or build, one but it would just set taking up space for most of the year. If I had such a tool I'd seriously consider gifting it to a Maker Space ........ with the provision that I get lifetime/free access to the tool. They get to pay for the shop space and insurance. ;)
<< >>
Agree with this. Same problem flying clubs have. Everyone seems to want to use the resources at the same time. Probably the same solutions set?

What are the needs??
That might vary?

1) As much as I hate being on committees that start out spending an inordinate amount of time on their 'Mission Statement" that really is the first need. There are all kinds of forks in the road at this point.
2) Bylaws. Written and clear. You will need them anyway for the next step.
3) Money. As much as we would all like to depend on donations for meeting space there are some things that will need cash. Where does it come from and how is it spent? This leads to an LLC or 501c3.
4) Officers that have the time and abilities to create a plan to accomplish the goals/purpose of the Mission Statement. This means the goals as stated, not the personal goals of the officers.
5) Members that substantially agree with and will support the mission statement. If the members don’t hold the officers accountable, pay their dues and participate in a meaningful way then the whole thing falls apart.
 

Kyle Boatright

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So what is the goal here? Is it to build Chapter attendence (for it's own sake), or build aviation "doers"? I mean, I'm fairly active in GA, yet I have no need whatsoever for chapter meetings. If I need a social fix on a Wednesday night I have PLENTY of options... I'd rather be in my hangar, you know... Building something.
This is exactly why I stopped attending EAA meetings. They ended up being meetings to have meetings and to give retired guys a way to kill time. I figured it was better to actually work on the airplane in my garage than talk about the next chapter fundraiser or have the never-ending discussion around why it would be 5 more years before we'd have the $$ to get a chapter hangar on one of the nearby airports.
 

Twodeaddogs

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When I attend meeting of our group, I : catch up with the lads for a chat and hear news of who's doing what.; return or borrow tools or parts; give or get advice, in my function as an Inspector; sign paperwork for Permit renewals; get a look at things like 3D printing or Arduino or 8.33 khz radios or ADS-B; inspect parts offered by builders; help fix or complete things; get something made( we meet in a friend's engineering works); bring books and magazine to pass on or swap. We have an extensive library, both printed and electronic. We also have a tool crib,from which items can be borrowed,such as the all-important crimping tool.The administrative stuff is done by the Head Shed,mostly by email,so the evening is casual, good humoured and rarely dull. We particularly avoid mixing the Committee stuff and the social stuff,as the former is guaranteed to kill the latter stone dead. We sometimes have guests speak or someone will have a laptop or even a screen running something homebuilt related. We consistently get an attendance of 20, sometimes 30 and there's always something new and it is vital for continuity.
 

cblink.007

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Throwing my 2 cents in by stating up front that I have absolutely no idea what it will take to "grow" aviation beyond simply doing more of it myself. That said, I quite literally grew up with EAA. My old man was a founder and chapter president of the chapter in our town and held meetings in his garage. It was a perfectly normal childhood to have a dozen or so strangers over on wednesday nights in your garage talking about homebuilt airplanes, and I found it odd that other school children didnt have airplanes at home.

The last EAA meeting I went to when I moved to the Edwards AFB area 20 years ago had NOBODY building anything. The guest speaker that night was a Shutle pilot or something and I was wondering what in the hell did this have to do with homebuilding? I was restoring a wood wing Mooney and a Tailwind, and building a Starduster Too at the time. I was about 30, with no money, yet all these "old guys" with disposable income were doing NOTHING but telling stories about the good old days and (apparently) looking for an excuse to get away from their wives for a few hours. Ok, same tired, worn out EAA chapter bashing story over...

So back to reality. I try to encourage my co workers to jump into flying by giving rides, and telling stories about my weekend flying adventures - the "hook" is to show the practical side of the cool activity that is GA. Almost without exception, my co workers are genuinely interested, financially capable, yet just wont make the jump. They'd much rather spend 150k on a boat, motorhome, or toybox full of dirtbikes than spend 10k on flight training and a 30k airplane. Why? I have NO IDEA.

But I am of the opinion that getting them to an EAA chapter isnt going to do it unless free strippers are involved, and for the life of me, I cant figure out what would get ME out of my hangar and to a Chapter meeting. Almost everyone I know is building multiple airplanes or are in the aviation industry in some significant way. But I do know that the fastest growing segment of GA is our homebuilt community, and BY FAR, the heavy hitter here is Van. Figure out how to duplicate that overwhelming success among the homebuilders who "hate" RV's and we are golden. JMHO.
You are making some excellent points. On the record, everybody here is!

Sometimes, asking for differing opinions and viewpoints helps me place things into perspective.

When I was dealing with the toxic president with the chapter I was in, I reached out to EAA HQ for help. After all, this particular individual and chapter is supposed to be ambassador for the organization, right? Well, when talking to National, they were quick to point out that for all intents and purposes, the 'chapter'is basically an independent organizarion that merely pays for the right to be badged as an EAA-affiliated organization. In other words, the nonprofit version of a franchise, without the added hassle of being accountable to the parent organization.

Long story short, National pretty much told me: "Sorry to hear of what you all are going through, and sorry that you've been targeted for investigation by your command, but this isn't our problem. Read your bylaws. Good luck, and oh yeah, you know you are due to renew your national membership, right?"

That pretty much told me that National only deals with National matters, with very few exceptions.

Almost leads me to an idea...

Is a better way forward simply doing differing types of 'chapters'; ie some dedicated to flying or building or purely social (with appropriate recognition, such as what they do with Vintage, IMC/VMC club, stand-alone flying clubs), and EAA simply becoming a pure networking and advocacy group that these respective independent groups simply affiliate with, similar to SAE, SETP, SFTE, AIAA, ASME, AOPA et al?

Not sure if it would lead to more showing to a meeting or recruiting new members. Like you said, if people want to build an aircraft, they find a way; they don't need a chapter to do it. Same if they want to learn to fly. But if networking or simply finding other like-minded individuals is the primary objective, EAA is there. That being said, as an aero engineer and test pilot, I am a member of groups like SETP, SFTE and SAE, but not all my peers are if that makes any sense. Why? Because membership in those groups is not a requirement to do the job!

I will quote one of my business partners: "We should only be a part of it if we get something tangible out of it... no return, no investment, period", with respect to our group formally linking in with EAA. He is convinced that we would be better off joining the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, because of two reasons: 1- The EAA has not responded one bit to any of our releases, despite the fact that we email, 'mention', 'tag' and 'DM' them constantly, and 2- Dan Johnson and his group look to have a much better finger on the pulse of the industry, metrics and all. Also helps they found us and opened a dialogue for future coverage and promotion.

Let's say you all!
 
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BJC

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I will quote one of my business partners: "We should only be a part of it if we get something tangible out of it, period",
I would find it difficult to measure the tangible benefit of the EAA's advocacy efforts, especially their stopping new regulatory efforts before they gain any momentum, but it is (has the potential to be) significant.


BJC
 

cblink.007

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I would find it difficult to measure the tangible benefit of the EAA's advocacy efforts, especially their stopping new regulatory efforts before they gain any momentum, but it is (has the potential to be) significant.


BJC
Spot on. It is only logical and fair for a prospect to ask: "What's in it for me?". All the reason why my colleague is very hesitant about joining the organization. He is convinced we have little to nothing to gain with EAA, especially when the LAMA found us out and is all over us wanting to know all about our group. But, he is not as spooled up in the aviation lifestyle the way many of us here are. As such, he sees it as an outsider looking in, making business recommendations and decisions without the emotional attachments. Very much a McCoy vs Spock dynamic in our office, but that is a good thing.
 

Bigshu

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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?
I wish there was a source for help with ramping up something like that. I think it would be exactly what the aviation builder community needs, and would almost certainly cross polinate and buil interest in aviation. Why fly a puny little drone or do simulations when you can build and fly for real (answer is drones and sim setups are an order of magnitude cheaper...)?
 

Bigshu

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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?
I think it's both explicit and implied. We just need to find the right approach to make it happen. Everything is affected by either the pandemic, or natural disasters (hurricanes on the east coast, wildfires on the west coast, freakishly big tornadoes in the midwest) right now, but there's at least one group actively pushing a "buy American" commitment for government contracts. It's a small step from that, with the right tax incentives, to bring some of these jobs back (it's a national security imperative to me).
 

Bigshu

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Almost without exception, my co workers are genuinely interested, financially capable, yet just wont make the jump. They'd much rather spend 150k on a boat, motorhome, or toybox full of dirtbikes than spend 10k on flight training and a 30k airplane. Why? I have NO IDEA.
I'll tell you why. Lenders trip over themselves to finance all that other stuff. Just try to finance flight training or a homebuilt aircraft project. I've tried to use AOPAs finance people for flight training, and am currently trying to use them for a used certified aircraft. They have asked for more documentation three times so far. Turned me down for the flight training loan. Expecting to be turned down for the aircraft loan. And this is with a close to 6 figure salary job I've had for 30 years, and owning my own home outright. I'll probably just buy the aircraft outright myself after the first of the year.
 

Bigshu

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set yourselves a challenge in your Chapter: do ten new or different things this year. Introduce a new technology; bring a female flying (get more women involved); organise a fly-out to a new place,which involves an off-airport activity; build an engine, even if all you do is run it on a stand (a VW or a small two-stroke); carve and run a propellor; if you have to move or retrieve an aircraft, get more people involved; cast something (we had a member cast and turn a wheel);build a half VW.........do something! We organised a photographic competition one time, had the results judged by a professional aircraft photgrapher and awarded a small prize. Great fun and laughs all round. We've also done visits to our nearby Air base and airline maintenance hangars. they are hard to set up but they are always oversubscribedand they always generate positive results.Don't stagnate.
Call your local Civil Air Patrol squadron, they have an obligation to make presentations to outside groups (Aerospace education is a core mission, ask me how I know!) Control tower visits, or other airport functions like to show what they do and meet actual users of their services. Often very easy to set up.
 

Will Aldridge

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A thought occurred. Stol popularity has increased dramatically in the last few years thanks in part to the Flying Cowboys, Trent Palmer, et al. It occurred to me that perhaps one of the reasons they have been so successful in inspiring interest in backcountry aviation is that its just an extension of what people already want to do. Most people who live around me have dirt bikes, side by sides and campers. Backcountry flying just adds a third dimension to what a lot of people already do. A lanceair is a sportscar. At least where I live the dirt bikes and 4 wheelers far outnumber the sportscars in the driveways.
 

Pops

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Follow the money. Example -- In my state commercial off road camping trips for weekends and or a week in the mountains is getting big, bringing in tourist money. State pass laws that you can drive an off-road vehicle on any road that doesn't have a center strip and up to 20 miles on roads with a center strip to get fuel and food.
That is the reason I'm building another VW pipe buggy. Back in the 1970's we could run the off road vehicles on all the roads if you had headlight and taillights and brake lights. I have driven them everywhere, then the state crack down and required everything to have a state safety inspection with the sticker on the windshield. Stopped all off road vehicles except on private roads and land.

BTW-- There is one airport in Ohio that is in a state park that has fly-in camper parking and tiedowns and areas to camp on a lake shore. Wife and I used to fly in a spend Sundays there picnicking by the lake when I had C-172's.
Noble Co, ( I10 )
 
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