Zenith Aircraft Co.
ZENITH AIRCRAFT AT WORK AROUND THE
BUILDING ON YOUTH
Haven EAA chapter sets example
for young craftsmen
MACKINNON, SUNN FUN TODAY, April 1997
|EAA founder Paul
Poberezny, center, with some of the youngsters
that EAA Chapter 229 helped build a Zenair
kitplane. Photo Bill De Brauwer.
disturbing trend,. but the average aviation enthusiast
isnt getting any younger. To combat this
associations like EAA have created programs like Young
Eagles to encourage young people to learn to fly.
The problem of age was painfully aware to members of EAA
Chapter 229s Falcon Wing in Winter Haven, Fla.
"A couple of years ago, we looked around the room at
a chapter meeting and saw a sea of bald heads ... and no
kids," explained Dick Gibbs, the chapter's
What made these flyers different is that they decided to
do something other than just talking about it.
"When we were young, we used to spend a day
scrubbing a hangar floor just to get an hour's
dual," Gibbs said. 'We'd do anything around a field
just to get to fly."
"But those opportunities just aren't there now, what
with security concerns and the like."
So the chapter members sought a modem equivalent of the
blood, sweat and tears experience ... and decided they
would encourage a group of youngsters to build and fly a
Zenair Zodiac kitplane.
"We saw a bunch of essentially disenfranchised kids
who wanted to fly but wouldn't have thought of trying to
afford lessons. In return for a certain number of hours
spent building the aircraft, we'd promise to get them a
flying license," Gibbs explained.
Helping the kids build their own aircraft was a key part
of the chapter's vision.
'We didn't just want to embark on flight training,"
Gibbs, said. "First if theres no pain, there's
no gain: Second, we wanted to build some equity so we
could put another bunch of kids through the
Matt Phillips, now 20, joined the program with his
younger brother Andy after hearing
about it through a Boy Scout troop.
"About 20 kids applied - between 12 to 18 years old
- and nobody was excluded,' he said.
"I built one wing, and did some work on the
fuselage,' Phillips said. 'You can tell the left wing is
the better-built one," he joked.
Although he's still needs to solo. Matt - now an
aerospace engineering student - was busy manning the
chapters stand where the Zenair Zodiac is on show.
The chapter is encouraging supporters to sign up with a
$10 contribution to the Falcon Wing. His brother is
already in flight training and flew his first solo a year
The program is about more than just building and flying
an aircraft. It is designed to instill confidence, as
Gibbs tells of how 15-year-old Layla Embrey screamed in
surprise the first time she switched on an electric
drill. Now she confidently fits skin panels without a
second's hesitation. Another time, after she stripped
down an 85 horsepower Continental, Embrey looked as
though shed been dipped in a tar pit, he said.
"Enthusiasms not something we have to teach,',
Dick said. "Keeping clean is!"
Dicks hope is that the project will grow across the
country. Chapters are about to start projects in Batavia,
N.Y., and Santa Monica, Calif., and another has already
started construction in south east Ohio, he understands.
Gibb is also quick to dismiss parallels with the Young
"This is a significant step further than the Young
Eagles," he said. ".We'd like to see it
"We're going to have some 15 to 18 teenage pilots in
the air who would not otherwise have been pilots. There
are 800 chapters and if each of them could get 10
teenagers in the air through the Falcons that would be
8,000 new teenage pilots a year."
"The first month or so the kids just thought it was
fun. Then I told them, 'Do you realize what you're
working on? One day you're going to be flying in this.
You'd better make sure what youre doing is done
damn well ... and make sure what the person next to you
is doing is done damn well."
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