For two decades, Neil Bowden, EAA 565560, has been organizing the South African contingent’s visit to Oshkosh. The last weekend in April, he found himself suddenly involved in a whole new dimension of EAA activity.
Neil was in Oshkosh to purchase a camper for the South African compound and stopped by the EAA Aviation Center to pay the EAA Chapter 322 (South Africa) dues. When he asked what else was going on over the weekend, he discovered that the spring Chapter Leadership Academy had brought 50 other chapter leaders from throughout the U.S. to the Oshkosh.
“So I thought, why not? There’s never enough time to talk with other chapter leaders during AirVenture,” said Bowden. “This has been marvelous and such a great opportunity.”
The Chapter Leadership Academy invites chapter leaders to EAA to share their successes and challenges, and learn from each other. EAA staff is also on hand to lead discussions on everything from chapter recruitment and retention to financial topics and media relations.
The Oshkosh sessions are held several times a year. Added to the Chapter Leadership Bootcamp events held throughout the country, it helps bolster the support for EAA’s 900 local chapters that promote grassroots aviation throughout the country.
“It was a happy benefit to have Neil here this weekend,” said Charlie Becker, EAA’s director of chapters and communities and homebuilt community manager. “While we always learn from one another during these chapter events, having the international perspective makes this weekend an even better one for the participants.”
Equipped with new knowledge and dozens of new EAA chapter-leader friends, Neil will return to South Africa for a couple of months before leading the country’s contingent back to Oshkosh for EAA AirVenture. He expects perhaps more than 150 South Africans — the largest group ever — to re-establish their compound in Camp Scholler. Bowden also expects a DC-3 from South Africa to make the long flight to Oshkosh as well.
“The trip started as a one-off 21 years ago,” he said. “It’s been a fantastic experience. There is simply nothing like Oshkosh and we can’t wait to be a part of it again.”