Group open to anyone interested in aviation
By Angie Landsverk
EAA Chapter 444 has a new home at Waupaca Municipal Airport-Brunner Field.
The chapter held its first meeting there Saturday, Jan. 14.
“We’re open to anyone interested in aviation. You don’t need to be a pilot or building a plane,” said Brad Hahn, the chapter’s president.
Before joining EAA Chapter 444, one has to be a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).
The association is made up of pilots and non-pilots from throughout the world who enjoy aviation.
Members of the local chapter participate in EAA AirVenture, mentor young adults who are building a light sport airplane, offer airplane rides to youth through the Young Eagles program, and hold gatherings and social events.
Phil Myrkle joined the chapter around 1972, which was shortly after it was organized by a personal friend of Paul Poberezny.
Poberezny founded EAA in 1953, and today the association has more than 200,000 members in more than 100 countries.
“We met in different spaces in Appleton,” Myrkle said of the chapter’s early years.
That included the terminal of the local airport, as well as at Fox Valley Technical College and in the basements of homes.
Around 1990, the chapter moved to Poppy’s Field, near Northport.
Ken Johnson, a member of the chapter, said the field was less accessible and visible.
“We decided to move here,” said Brian Long, the chapter’s vice president. “It made the most sense for the chapter.”
Poppy’s Field is private, while Waupaca’s airport is public.
“We have the potential to our own hanger in the future,” said Johnson.
EAA Chapter 444 has about 45 members, many of whom live in the Waupaca area.
Members of the chapter hope its membership grows.
The chapter meets at 10 a.m. on the second Saturday of each month.
Beth Andersen, the airport’s manager, said the chapter will be based out of the terminal or Brunner Hangar, until it gets its own hangar.
“Brian (Long) and Brad (Hahn) had been talking to me since early last year about the possible move,” she said. “It’s a good fit.”
The city’s Airport Board and Common Council both approved it, Andersen said.
“We have had a lot of other people express interest in joining the chapter now that it moved,” she said.
She wants the public to know the airport is family friendly and a place where all are welcome.
Current EAA members may join EAA Chapter 444 at an annual cost of $25 a year for singles and $30 for families.
Those interested in doing so may email Hahn at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling him at 920-407-0927.
The chapter already has plans for 2017.
“Now that we’re here, we will be doing events throughout the year,” Hahn said.
The first one will be a ski plane fly-in and chili cook-off on Saturday, Feb. 11.
The event, which will be open to the public, will take place at the airport from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“If the weather is nice, we might try to sneak some Young Eagle flights in,” Hahn said.
The Young Eagles Program gives youth ages 8 to 17 their first ride on an airplane for free.
“EAA was established to help people build airplanes,” Johnson said. “We still do that, but recently, it’s been to encourage young people (to become interested in aviation).”
Hahn said they hope to offer more Young Eagles flights at Waupaca’s airport.
“Safety is always first with the Young Eagles,” Johnson said. “Every time we meet, we will be able to fly Young Eagles, based on the weather. That’s our goal – to get people flying, to get kids flying.”
During the chapter’s open house last May, it did a total of 62 Young Eagle flights.
Other plans for the chapter this year include working with Waupaca’s Parks and Recreation Department to offer movie nights at the airport, according to Hahn.
“We’re going to try to do a lot of fundraisers out there,” he said, “because that is how we will build our hangar.”