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

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cblink.007

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2014
Messages
531
Location
Texas, USA
"but no EAA chapter I ever heard of can afford it ..."
Check these guys out, VB...
You do realize that Van's Aircraft HQ is less than 45 mins away from this chapter, right? At 202 dues current members, full resources and such, this is a chapter that apparently does not have a problem attracting and retaining people!
 
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Aviacs

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 21, 2019
Messages
97
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??
As someone mentioned, a lot of the things that seemed critically important to us when young, are barely of interest to todays youth. Besides aviation, things like skiing, e.g. & even driving, are dying. At a young age, i would have been corruptible if it had got me access to airplanes and flying. I did bicycle 25 miles and sneak under fences and into padlocked hangars just to look. OTOH most of us at EAA with kids never really could even interest our own. They liked to participate and show up for social events - but flying? un-uh most of the time. Many kids in metro areas don't even care to get a drivers license. My own son was graduated from college before he asked me one summer to ride with him in my wife's car so he could learn stick (at the time, that was all we had, but mine was a truck) so he could get a license to get to his job. He had gone to school, lived, and worked in cities before that

Before 9-1-1 flying was relatively unrestricted, and sometime before the 90's it was eminently practical & more or less cost effective for going places. Since airline deregulation, not even close. The interstates were essentially completed, cars got ever better, so when the double nickle was finally dropped, distances of up to 3 - 500 miles became more effective by road, most days, weather, and mission profiles. Meigs was the famous airport closing, yet the attrition up to that point was steady and rapid, and continues. How many small airports still have a loaner car when you get there? Kids do travel, even a lot, and long distances. But with social media they don't "need" to travel the way we did.

I really don't think we'll see a popular resurgence until flying cars are workable and widely available. Or drone based platforms become capable enough to engage the outdoor powersports demographic. (which is huge).

Getting back to your paragraph that i quoted, I thought those things were necessities?
As many useful machines and tools in your hangar as possible. A group project. Our current chapter project, initiated about 2 years ago, is a hovercraft. (Navy classes them aircraft :) ) The idea was to get something that anyone can work on without A & P supervision, and easily imagine "piloting" with some training, upon completion. It has drawn in new members who are not pilots and probably never will be. But they can be in the hangar with all the airplanes around them, and work on a project, and socialize as well. We keep trying to recruit kids, and many parents have said "Oh, my daughter would love that" but they never show up.

I've mentioned in other posts we have an recently completed nuts 'n bolts rebuilt C140 & a more "patinaed" prewar J3 cub at the cheapest rates around but can barely keep enough flying club members to afford the insurance year to year. This is all in an 8,000 ft heated hangar.

I don't think a full blown "maker space" as described by some is the answer, though, because you have to store projects & someone has to maintain it. It gets to be acrimonious. Also, at the hobby level, NY state mandates it in the libraries. Our local library is incredibly well equipped with high end hobby size machines. I used to donate plywood regularly. The librarian finally convinced me to run a furniture inlay job there instead of on my manual machines. Maybe this old dog will go back and learn some more yet. Also in this area, STEM grants are widely utilized and there are competing robotics teams plural that meet multiple nights/week during school year with engineers mentoring them. Very good things for kids but regarding aviation it is just another competition, with flashier, faster, more sociable results. No time and attention even for parents to schedule another weekday night.

As a chapter, we are convinced that the most enthusiasm comes from members who are building. Seeing our way forward in the near future, we need to keep making that the most accessible part of our mission. Someone mentioned women - some of our most avid pilots have been women, and they have been among the more enthusiastic participants in aircraft maintenance and projects. A problem withy young pilots and A& P's though is that after enough corporate time, the airlines lure them away.

Until Covid, our monthly pancake breakfasts were widely appreciated & attended by the local community. Many couples or families came every month. It's good to have people who want to socialize & eat sitting among airplanes and feeling good about your chapter even if they will never commit aviation themselves. Our YE events, Father's Day Fly-ins, old engine shows, Antique car shows in our parking lot have all at times been quite successful. 2019 was a bad year, though, and of course this year leaves people everywhere wondering if anything will return to what used to be thought "normal". Some of our programs have gone downhill because despite all the success in the past, we still have not replaced the level of commitment of some or our past base, many are flagging or buried. We are fortunate to have a somewhat younger membership base who may have been too busy in the past but are beginning to come out and volunteer more. It's extremely important to have an organization that people are willing to be members, even if they "never show up or do anything." They remain members for a reason, and at some point, some will find the time or arrive at a place in life where they want and can become active.

Think about your experience with the gold plated eagles crowd. All you wanted was acknowledgement and acceptance and to be around an active aviation resource. Many people who are not pilots and probably never will be (due mostly to money at the base of it), might still want to feel like they can be around airplanes, pilots, and be accepted and appreciated for who they are, too. The dues help, the community support can be invaluable, and once every 10 or 15 years or so, one among that group might even take another step.

Our immediate dilemma is as mentioned by someone else - 25 years flew by way too fast! Our chapter decided to build it's own hangar in 1995. We completed it in 1996 with our own money & mostly our own labor. Nonetheless, to get approval to build it under the terms at the time, it became the property of the county and we had a 10 year lease plus 3, 5 year extensions, which are now complete. (Yes, we pay rent on the building we built, paid for, improve, and maintain. Worse, we, a Federal 501(c)3 tax exempt non-profit, also pay property taxes on the building we don't actually own.) We do not yet know if the county will renew our lease or under what terms.

These days, if at all possible, don't build on a towered airport. We built before 911 and there were many advantages. A couple members had warbirds at the time. The airport manager was a member. A now defunct museum was built katty corner from us a few years after we built. Several (now mostly defunct) corporate flight ops existed. We have exceptional working relationships with airport ops and TSA. Nonethless, TSA requirements impinge on your recruitment and member activities. For instance, badging for access to the hangar side which includes the workspaces. Every member has access to the hospitality areas. But they have to be approved by TSA to get access through the firewall to the hangar which has ramp access. There's another layer of record keeping and compliance associated.

Reviewing this, a lot was blather. Hopeful take-aways might be:
1.) build or acquire a chapter space on a non-towered airport.

2.) make it accessible and encourage building activities -however, as many have noted, written bylaws are critical. The hangar should be a resource for construction, maintenance, & flying aircraft, not dead storage. You can support the chapter with rent from the flyable airplanes and project spaces. Have written protocols with the bylaws spelled out as to how to deal with deadbeats & dead storage.

3.) EAA won't really help you with anything at your chapter level unless maybe it would be to help prevent airport closure, and i think AOPA is better for that. EAA will bail in a heartbeat if they perceive a reason to become un-associated with you. For instance we sold a ton of rides on their B17 the year the gear collapsed. Patently obvious and certainly understandable that they couldn't complete the tour. Unfortunately their advice to chapters dealing with public relations was basically "good luck, bye."

However, EAA is a widely recognized brand that you probably don't want to work a club without. It has resources for your own initiatives, and it works to keep homebuilding and many aviation activities and resources viable through their lobbying efforts and connections which is a benefit for all of us.

EAA Ray Aviation Scholarship fund is working very well for us.
We are applying to do another one.
I think this is going to make a difference nationally, if they can keep it up.

If you get a chance as a chapter officer, attend one of their long weekend "leadership development" courses in Oshkosh if they still hold them. You may or may not already have experience or prejudice with development initiatives in professional life, but go for the connections and to get a fly on the wall sense of how EAA functions.

5.) do what you can to encourage anyone to feel like they can stop by and hang out, or even participate. It's not that difficult to manage the nuisances, and you never know when something good will come of it.

smt
 
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rc-rotorhead

Member
Joined
Aug 31, 2011
Messages
13
Location
Harker Heights, TX/USA
Warning, long winded post ahead!

Some background- I am not a member of the EAA/AOPA/FAA, etc. although I was in the EAA with my dad when I was a teen. I grew up in and around aviation my whole life, my father scrimped and saved for his dream to get his PPL and build his own airplane. I went to the Army to live out my aviation dreams- crewing, repairing, and inspecting helicopters. After getting out I continued contracting around the world and have rebuilt a few helicopters from small boxes of crashed parts. Along the way I started, stopped and restarted flight lessons, but a recent heart condition complicates flying for me. I have been into r/c flying since I was in middle school. The FAA rule changes on drones put a damper on my flying but this year I have been active again. One of the reasons I jumped back in was because I was looking for something to do and the wife frowned on having another project in the garage (an ultralight), not to mention the logistics of where to store it when completed. I have been quietly putting some ideas to paper to try see if an Airdrome Airplanes E.III will meet my needs, or what would need to be modified to suit.

One of the tasks I took on was helping grow our local r/c flying club so I have run into many of the same things mentioned here. Please know that the EAA is not going through this alone, I hear it from all sorts of different groups too. Apathy and indifference (or is it laziness) are huge hurdles to overcome. I have offered free flying lessons on the club’s equipment with no strings or costs attached just to try to generate that spark of interest. I have seen teens with real talent prefer to sit on the sidelines and watch rather than wiggle the sticks themselves. I have seen the light in their eyes dim when mentioning the cost of buying their own equipment (and a $300 buy in is nothing compared to the price of GA flying!)

So how do you engage the next generation? Someone mentioned Facebook, but kids see that as the place where old people hang out online. Instagram, TikToc and YouTube engage and motivate them now instead. Maybe we need YouTube instructional videos by a non-threatening, non-authoritarian host, someone seen as a peer who has gone through it already. Someone who can inform and guide them on their journey. Peter Sripol gets people interested (not just kids) because he is experimenting and trailblazing an adventure which engages the viewer’s imagination. He doesn’t do it by telling them how to do it the right way, correcting them if they are wrong and telling them to get out of the way.

It’s not about what you like about the EAA and want the EAA to continue to be. If you want new blood to come in you have to allow them to find a niche of their own, a place to be themselves. If staid, old Cessna 152’s and Cherokee 140’s are not drawing new members to aviation, then why discourage someone else’s idea of building a man carrying powered drone? Because it’s not what you want? Do you do the same with the guy building a sailplane or an electric powered primary glider at your local EAA chapter because you think the only stuff worthwhile is a 200hp composite speedster? Accept the fact that to build the group, change is inevitable. Otherwise membership would not have stagnated to begin with.

As ScaleBirdsScott mentioned back on page 1, where is the infrastructure? Putting in place the initiatives that have been discussed would be a good start, but what props that up and keeps it going for everyone? Maybe I want to get a glider rating, but the north-eastern end of Oklahoma and southern Kansas is not a mecca for sailplane activity. It might just be one for powered flight leading to the airlines, but not for much else outside that box. If you lived 200-400 miles to the south or west then it would be a different story but driving 3 to 4 hours away is a tough sell for a hobby. Ever wonder why the internet got to be so big in the first place? It drew like-minded individuals together into groups from all over without regard for distance. Without local infrastructure the hobby becomes inconvenient, and the barrier of inconvenience is huge for those on the fringes looking in.

One of the things I have noticed here at HBA over the years is that the character of the forum has changed slightly. Things are less innovative and experimental (remember Mark Stuhl?). Now much of the content seems to be about hashing out the finer points of a design through refined engineering as opposed to educated TLAR and experimentation. There are many knowledgeable and experienced people on here who share their opinion and I honestly think that is great. But, at some point, that also contributes again to that barrier for new blood. (I hope that doesn’t mean HBA is nearing its apogee and we could soon see similar threads on how to grow HBA too). When the EAA was formed there were no hard and fast rules about how to get from A to B. The homebuilt had not been refined and scrutinized to the Nth degree. You didn’t need an engineering degree to draw up a set of plans and start building. I don’t see many new kits or plans that would allow someone to build a modern Pietenpol Aircamper, Bowers Fly Baby, or Corben Baby Ace but I do see someone trying to sell a handful of carbon fiber UL Corsairs. When I was a kid I was so impressed by the neighborhood kid with the hovercraft powered by a washing machine motor with a 100’ extension cord that was built from plans out of Popular Mechanics. Kids today look at drones and “hover-bikes” the same way. How many times have we seen posts with negative comments on e-flight, battery power systems, multi-rotor flight, something out of the box or on the edge…

If you want to see the EAA and our sport grow, you need to make it cool to the next generation. Whether that coolness comes from being popular in the movies, as a counter-culture hobby, or somehow pushing the boundaries and trailblazing for the next generation. We could have an active online presence, builder spaces, active community interest days, flying-ins, pancake breakfasts, etc., but the truth is that aviation is a slowly dying dinosaur from another era. Imagine what you think the future will look like in the next 30, 50, or 100 years and tell me how the aviation of today has any relation with the pathway to the Jetsons of tomorrow. Or with the Babylon 5/Star Wars/Terminator image of the future that Hollywood puts out. Now go tell the kids that a stick and fabric airplane built by a bunch of old dudes is where they want to be.

I wish I could wave my magic wand and magically fix the problem, but I don’t have the answers. If I did I would make a fortune by selling off my advice like E.F. Hutton. All I know is that the future is about change and we have to adapt to and embrace it. Want to get an idea where the future is heading? Ask the next generation that question.
 

12notes

Well-Known Member
Lifetime Supporter
Log Member
Joined
Aug 27, 2014
Messages
1,113
Location
Louisville, KY
These days, if at all possible, don't build on a towered airport. We built before 911 and there were many advantages. A couple members had warbirds at the time. The airport manager was a member. A now defunct museum was built katty corner from us a few years after we built. Several (now mostly defunct) corporate flight ops existed. We have exceptional working relationships with airport ops and TSA. Nonethless, TSA requirements impinge on your recruitment and member activities. For instance, badging for access to the hangar side which includes the workspaces. Every member has access to the hospitality areas. But they have to be approved by TSA to get access through the firewall to the hangar which has ramp access. There's another layer of record keeping and compliance associated.
I currently fly from a towered Class D airport that does not do this, and have not heard of anything like this at the other class D towered airports I've visited.
 

cblink.007

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2014
Messages
531
Location
Texas, USA
Warning, long winded post ahead!

Some background- I am not a member of the EAA/AOPA/FAA, etc. although I was in the EAA with my dad when I was a teen. I grew up in and around aviation my whole life, my father scrimped and saved for his dream to get his PPL and build his own airplane. I went to the Army to live out my aviation dreams- crewing, repairing, and inspecting helicopters. After getting out I continued contracting around the world and have rebuilt a few helicopters from small boxes of crashed parts. Along the way I started, stopped and restarted flight lessons, but a recent heart condition complicates flying for me. I have been into r/c flying since I was in middle school. The FAA rule changes on drones put a damper on my flying but this year I have been active again. One of the reasons I jumped back in was because I was looking for something to do and the wife frowned on having another project in the garage (an ultralight), not to mention the logistics of where to store it when completed. I have been quietly putting some ideas to paper to try see if an Airdrome Airplanes E.III will meet my needs, or what would need to be modified to suit.

One of the tasks I took on was helping grow our local r/c flying club so I have run into many of the same things mentioned here. Please know that the EAA is not going through this alone, I hear it from all sorts of different groups too. Apathy and indifference (or is it laziness) are huge hurdles to overcome. I have offered free flying lessons on the club’s equipment with no strings or costs attached just to try to generate that spark of interest. I have seen teens with real talent prefer to sit on the sidelines and watch rather than wiggle the sticks themselves. I have seen the light in their eyes dim when mentioning the cost of buying their own equipment (and a $300 buy in is nothing compared to the price of GA flying!)

So how do you engage the next generation? Someone mentioned Facebook, but kids see that as the place where old people hang out online. Instagram, TikToc and YouTube engage and motivate them now instead. Maybe we need YouTube instructional videos by a non-threatening, non-authoritarian host, someone seen as a peer who has gone through it already. Someone who can inform and guide them on their journey. Peter Sripol gets people interested (not just kids) because he is experimenting and trailblazing an adventure which engages the viewer’s imagination. He doesn’t do it by telling them how to do it the right way, correcting them if they are wrong and telling them to get out of the way.

It’s not about what you like about the EAA and want the EAA to continue to be. If you want new blood to come in you have to allow them to find a niche of their own, a place to be themselves. If staid, old Cessna 152’s and Cherokee 140’s are not drawing new members to aviation, then why discourage someone else’s idea of building a man carrying powered drone? Because it’s not what you want? Do you do the same with the guy building a sailplane or an electric powered primary glider at your local EAA chapter because you think the only stuff worthwhile is a 200hp composite speedster? Accept the fact that to build the group, change is inevitable. Otherwise membership would not have stagnated to begin with.

As ScaleBirdsScott mentioned back on page 1, where is the infrastructure? Putting in place the initiatives that have been discussed would be a good start, but what props that up and keeps it going for everyone? Maybe I want to get a glider rating, but the north-eastern end of Oklahoma and southern Kansas is not a mecca for sailplane activity. It might just be one for powered flight leading to the airlines, but not for much else outside that box. If you lived 200-400 miles to the south or west then it would be a different story but driving 3 to 4 hours away is a tough sell for a hobby. Ever wonder why the internet got to be so big in the first place? It drew like-minded individuals together into groups from all over without regard for distance. Without local infrastructure the hobby becomes inconvenient, and the barrier of inconvenience is huge for those on the fringes looking in.

One of the things I have noticed here at HBA over the years is that the character of the forum has changed slightly. Things are less innovative and experimental (remember Mark Stuhl?). Now much of the content seems to be about hashing out the finer points of a design through refined engineering as opposed to educated TLAR and experimentation. There are many knowledgeable and experienced people on here who share their opinion and I honestly think that is great. But, at some point, that also contributes again to that barrier for new blood. (I hope that doesn’t mean HBA is nearing its apogee and we could soon see similar threads on how to grow HBA too). When the EAA was formed there were no hard and fast rules about how to get from A to B. The homebuilt had not been refined and scrutinized to the Nth degree. You didn’t need an engineering degree to draw up a set of plans and start building. I don’t see many new kits or plans that would allow someone to build a modern Pietenpol Aircamper, Bowers Fly Baby, or Corben Baby Ace but I do see someone trying to sell a handful of carbon fiber UL Corsairs. When I was a kid I was so impressed by the neighborhood kid with the hovercraft powered by a washing machine motor with a 100’ extension cord that was built from plans out of Popular Mechanics. Kids today look at drones and “hover-bikes” the same way. How many times have we seen posts with negative comments on e-flight, battery power systems, multi-rotor flight, something out of the box or on the edge…

If you want to see the EAA and our sport grow, you need to make it cool to the next generation. Whether that coolness comes from being popular in the movies, as a counter-culture hobby, or somehow pushing the boundaries and trailblazing for the next generation. We could have an active online presence, builder spaces, active community interest days, flying-ins, pancake breakfasts, etc., but the truth is that aviation is a slowly dying dinosaur from another era. Imagine what you think the future will look like in the next 30, 50, or 100 years and tell me how the aviation of today has any relation with the pathway to the Jetsons of tomorrow. Or with the Babylon 5/Star Wars/Terminator image of the future that Hollywood puts out. Now go tell the kids that a stick and fabric airplane built by a bunch of old dudes is where they want to be.

I wish I could wave my magic wand and magically fix the problem, but I don’t have the answers. If I did I would make a fortune by selling off my advice like E.F. Hutton. All I know is that the future is about change and we have to adapt to and embrace it. Want to get an idea where the future is heading? Ask the next generation that question.
Great points. All agreeable. Not too sure about classifying aviation as a dying thing overall, but that can easily be said about some segments.

A longtime mentor once said best at the beginning of a well-known composite construction video:

"Time moves on, and ideas change..."

Thank you for chiming in!
 

mcrae0104

Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
Log Member
Joined
Oct 27, 2009
Messages
3,515
Every member has access to the hospitality areas. But they have to be approved by TSA to get access through the firewall to the hangar which has ramp access.
I currently fly from a towered Class D airport that does not do this, and have not heard of anything like this at the other class D towered airports I've visited.

As @cheapracer's therapist is fond of saying, "It's not unusual..."
 

ransfly

New Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1
We must have one of the best EAA chapters around. In our chapter hangar, we currently have 4 projects that we are working on. Prior to Covid-19, we have had a youth program that met every Saturday for 3 hours to work on planes. We would generally have anywhere from 6-12 kids working side-by-side with our chapter mentors. Between kids, mentors and parents it was not uncommon to have around 20 people in the hangar at lunch time. We and the kids rebuilt a Minimax which was sold to finance more projects. We had a C-150 donated to put into a flying club and are in the process of doing a major overhaul on it. Another member donated a Zenith 701 project that we are tweeking to put into the flying club. Some of the members are assisting another member with his Searey project. Yes, of a membership of about 60 people, we have about 15-20 active members. I, personally, feel that Young Eagles is a good start to attract the youth. Our chapter has received 2 of the EAA Ray foundation scholarships and have produced 2 new Private Pilots. Not everyone has the same interest-some like building(I have built 2 kits), some like flying Young Eagles, and yes some just like the socialization. The goal for us is to have enough activities that anyone who joins us can find something to do. We have a group that was flying out for lunch or dinner every week.
 

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cblink.007

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2014
Messages
531
Location
Texas, USA
Great feedback, everybody. It seems like the prevailing issues laying with particular chapters being comfortable with the status quo, or being resource strapped, preventing meaningful growth, to chapters that are booming, complete with multiple builds, plenty of attendance, sponsors, etc. However, it looks like the big success stories are far & few in between! Certainly not the news many of us want to hear, but its better to put all the problems on the table before you start creating solutions!

As promised, all, I am working on the next thread regarding the idea of addressing costs; things are being fact-checked.

Thank you so much, and keep up the conversation!!
 

Aviacs

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 21, 2019
Messages
97
I currently fly from a towered Class D airport that does not do this, and have not heard of anything like this at the other class D towered airports I've visited.
Scheduled carrier ops for one thing, but you would have to research TSA to determine how they make a determination when to become involved.
Take your chances. As mentioned, for us it all changed after 9/11. Also, visionary county & airport development continued to grow and promote our airport as an aviation hub which is phenomenal for the airport and the area. This is a great airport.

There are very good things in recompense. We have excellent working relationships. However, it is another level of awareness, potential risk, and volunteer effort for someone starting out. It can add to costs due to the likely aspects of building codes on a "big" airport, for instance. Where you could get away with a pole barn on a smaller field & improve it as you grow. Requirements for paving your parking lot. Etc. Small things that require attention & add up that can be a little looser at a non-towered facility. It might not matter to you and me, but it short circuits the interest in a few people every year when they learn that to join & fly club airplanes or use the machines in the hangar, that they have to get 2 levels of approval (become "known" and approved by the chapter. Then submitted to TSA who run a background check). Schedule & sit the course every 2 years, take the test, and pay to renew the badge. It's entirely possible, though, that that is a good filter.

It ended some of our major annual community promotions and fundraisers, such as the annual pride ride with thousands of motorcycles, that started &/or ended with a blast down the major runway; and some of the Independence day parties and celebrations; as well as being a step in the chain that ended other major events like a regional annual car show, & an annual 5K fundraiser at our hangar & on the airport

OTOH, if you build a facility on a "busy enough" airport it puts a floor on the value of hangar slots; and brings in new members who have to join to access them. Perhaps by airport non-compete covenants, almost assuredly by your by-laws.

Of course contrary to planning to build a facility, a "big" airport these days may well have some vacant cheap lease space which offsets other costs and gives the advantage of positioning your chapter where where things are "busy" & accessible to a wider range of potential members & promotional activities.

Any decision would best be based on the make-up and number of members you have, & their volunteer commitment level. None of anything i mentioned should be done by fiat. You would have a corporation, hopefully a visionary and active board with experience, and the group as a whole would work together relentlessly & responsibly to effect the project.

My observation over 45 years and board/officership in 2 active chapters that built facilities & at one time or another had nationally recognized programs would be that you can do anything with a good committed membership base and active members with interests in a range of complementary fields. However, people, including key people, move, drop out, die. All clubs/organizations/associations have eras of rising numbers and participation, and eras of decline. If systems are in place to ride out the troughs, there will generally be a rise again. I don't think too many are steady state over a few decades.
 
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