Building More Than an Airplane

Building More Than an Airplane

A number of volunteers from the fourth session of EAA’s volunteer AirCam build have plans to carry what they have learned into homebuilding projects of their own.

The AirCam project was organized by EAA as part of the 25th anniversary celebration of the Young Eagles program; once complete, the AirCam will be used to fly Young Eagles off of the grass strip at Pioneer Airport, located behind the EAA Aviation Museum in Oshkosh.

Those who have come to volunteer have heavily invested themselves in the build — one of the October session participants, Michael Malinowski, EAA 1035694, is volunteering for his third time on the project.

Michael said he came into the program with zero building experience, and has already been able to apply some of what he’s learned in his own life.

“I used my skills that I learn here from welding and pop riveting and I built a tent trailer,” he said. “I bought an axle and started welding up and riveted siding to it, so I’m using the techniques, but something that didn’t have to get certified.”

Although he has been coming to Oshkosh for EAA’s convention since 1974, Michael was surprised by how much he still was able to learn through working on the AirCam. He said since he hasn’t flown any Young Eagles, this is his was of being able to give back to the program.

Starting the week with what one volunteer said looked more like a canoe than an airplane, within a few days the October participants had the AirCam’s wings attached to the fuselage.

He also has two daughters who he has been bringing to KidVenture at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh for the past seven years and said he looks forward to showing them what they can do with what they’ve learned.

“I have two daughters, 14 and 15, and the thought that I could work on an airplane and then next summer bring them out for a flight, that would be cool,” he said.

Another volunteer, Danny Deason, EAA 716443, traveled all the way from Florida to learn about homebuilding and reinvigorate his EAA chapter’s activity back home.

“It’s really quite unique to be involved in something like this,” Danny said. “I’ve been taking photos and I’m going to do a presentation when I get back to my chapter in Tallahassee and hopefully recruit some more volunteers. … My chapter is a nonbuilding chapter. We’ve never built a plane. Our primary function is flying Young Eagles but hopefully we will build a plane because of this one day.”

He said up until a few years ago, his Chapter 445 in Tallahassee used to fly 300 Young Eagles a year and in total has sent almost 45 children and teens, all expenses paid, to the EAA Air Academy held every summer in Oshkosh. He said his chapter’s main challenge has been being based on a busy commercial airport, and that to move forward with a build project they will probably look to rent a hangar at a nearby noncommercial airport.

In addition, Danny said he is also planning visits with a fellow volunteer he met in Oshkosh to help him build his own AirCam, now that both men have experience with the plans.

The volunteer build has two more sessions left in 2017, one in November and one in December. Although the AirCam is edging toward completion ahead of schedule, the fuselage now being attached to the wings, there are still many details to be completed. Those who have volunteered so far said this is one of the ultimate ways to get involved in homebuilding and give back to the EAA community.

“This is grassroots Oshkosh,” Danny said, a smile breaking across his face. “You’re talking about EAA, grassroots flying. EAA is all about building airplanes and if you’re devoted to teaching kids there’s so many life lessons involved. To be working on an airplane that will be used for that purpose … this is just the greatest. I’m hoping to come back in December and try to finish this up. Then I hope to be here to watch kids fly in it next July.”

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Megan, EAA 1171719, is EAA’s staff writer, regularly contributing to both print and digital publications. She’s an aspiring pilot, a passionate aviation enthusiast, and an avid learner of just about everything. E-mail Megan at mesau@eaa.org.