Heart and Longevity

The passion that keeps EAA strong

EAA IS A VIBRANT ORGANIZATION: magazines, forums, all manner of stuff on the website, chapters, advocacy, and, of course, The Big Show—AirVenture. It’s just an exciting and fun group to be a part of. I sometimes shudder to think where we’d be in aviation without it. So how did it get to be where it is today? It only takes four words to answer that question: Paul and Audrey Poberezny. But, beyond that (and Paul and Audrey will be the first to tell you this), it’s because of people, airplanes, and passion. Over—and I want to emphasize this—a long period of time. That’s why we’re here, and that’s why we’re strong.


So let’s look back a bit. And what better place to start than EAA Chapter 105, located in the Portland, Oregon, area, headquartered at Stark’s Twin Oaks Airpark (7S3). It recently celebrated its 50th anniversary as a chapter. And, by golly, the chapter members did it with style! It was fitting of them, and it was fitting of the EAA spirit. They held their celebration in the Pearson Air Museum. The Pearson Air Museum is on the grounds of the historical Fort Vancouver in Washington. It is an old hangar that was built in 1918 and says “Army Air Corps — Pearson Field” on the front. Pearson Field (KVUO) has a 3,300-foot-long by 60-foot-wide runway. It’s a very nice airport nestled in a notch under the Class C airspace of Portland International Airport. You need to mind your p’s and q’s to go in there, but it’s not too tricky and is well worth the trip. You’re starting to get the picture, right?

Chapter 105, for its 50th anniversary celebration, surrounded itself in aviation patina. Inside the museum, on this evening fitted with dining tables and chairs for a gala evening, sat a T-6, a Stearman, and a PT-22. Good company. All in all, a perfect setting to celebrate the proud history of Chapter 105.

Okay, let’s ponder this chapter’s longevity for a minute. The chapter was first chartered in 1961. The charter document was signed by the young, strong hand of one Paul H. Poberezny. I read all the members’ names on the original charter. The list of past presidents of the chapter read like a who’s who in Pacific Northwest aviation history. The chapter president in 1965 was—drum roll please—Dick VanGrunsven. Ever heard of him? You might just know him as Van. (Folks, he’s been a passionate crusader for experimental aviation for a long time!)

Chapter 105 members didn’t just start their celebration with a banquet; they made a day of it! Starting in the early afternoon, they had two different presentation “tracks.” Track 2 was a flying companion seminar presented by the Oregon Pines Ninety-Nines. Track 1 was about Oregon and Chapter 105 aviation history: “Pre-1930 Oregon Aviation, Les Long’s Legacy, Beaverton

Outlaws, George Bogardus and the American Airman’s Association, Chapter 105—The First 15 Years, Chapter 105—The Most Recent 15 Years, Future of Light Plane Design.” You’re getting the feel of it now, right? This was an event honoring the people, airplanes, and passion of the last 50 years.

Then came the banquet. The food was good, but these things are seldom about the food, are they? They’re about the people. Ron, the chapter president, played a tape made by Paul Poberezny especially for the event. The room went silent. That was a special touch and was much appreciated by the crowd. Then they asked me to say a few words (because, as my friend Nel told me later, “Daffy Duck wasn’t available.”). So, of course, I worked in a couple stories about Nel. And another about my other buddy, Jerry VanGrunsven (Van’s brother). And, no, I don’t just talk about the screwups of others; I talk about my own, too. I told them about the one time, in my 26-year airline career, that I taxied to the wrong gate. (You haven’t heard these stories? Not to worry. I’ll tell ’em again at the Speaker Showcase at AirVenture this summer.)

I told my Van story of how, being a farm boy, I’m way into the mechanics of my airplane but not so much the cosmetics. I told ’em how I spray painted my cowling with Krylon so I have what’s called a “30-foot paint job.” (Looks okay from 30 feet, but not so good as you get closer.) It was at this time that Van hollered from the audience, “Fifty feet!” Shoot, I’m just tickled if Van says “howdy” to me; if he hollers at me I’m twice as honored! (Don’t burst my bubble; I’m happy in my world.)

Couple more items of note: I mentioned that Ron is the president of Chapter 105. Here’s the deal about him: He gets more done with less fanfare than anybody I know. I’m not the only one who noticed his style and work ethic. The chapter singled him out during the evening and gave him a gift and a standing ovation. Such are the people that make up EAA! Also in attendance was Connell, one of the kids who built the RV-12 with the original Teen Flight project (EAA Sport Aviation, August 2011).

I was able to point him out to the crowd and say, “This is our future.

We’re in good hands.” All clapped loudly for him.

After the evening festivities, a band called the Carroll Raaum Swing Orchestra played some World War II songs. A real band—with the big band sound! And boy, did they ever sound good in that setting: good people and good feelings surrounded by old airplanes. The keyboardist and lead vocalist, Vanessa Nelson, EAA 1052374, is a member of Chapter 105 and owns and flies a J-3. I leaned over at our table and asked Nel’s wife, Sheri, “Is Nel a good dancer?” She gave me a raised eyebrow and said, “I used to be a good dancer until I met him!” Then she smiled that cute Oklahoma smile.

All in all, it was just a wonderful evening my bride and I spent with Chapter 105. It was one of those events that as you drove home you felt good: good friends, good fun, good airplanes, and good future.


I want to keep the “50 years of longevity” theme going but, this time, bring it to an individual level. Larry Traver, EAA 9364, of Sturgis, South Dakota, wrote a letter to Sport Aviation. It’s a special letter, and I want to share some of it.

Monday, October 31, [I] flew from Sturgis, South Dakota, to Faulkton, South Dakota, my hometown, to give my sweet mother a plane ride so she could be the 100th rider in Spirit. My mom is on her 98th year in this world. She really enjoyed it and looked at everything. She enjoyed seeing the lakes and the farm where she lived. She said she forgot how much you could see from up there and that everything was so pretty. I don’t think she had ridden in a plane for 30 years. …

The Spirit, one of my homebuilt planes, built the likes of a Champ, was completed in May 2008. It’s named the Spirit because it has the Spirit of St. Louis N number, N211. Charles Lindbergh is one of my greatest idols. (Also, Bob Hoover.)

It was the first ride in a plane for 24 of the 100 riders. The oldest, first rider was John Carlson, from Newcastle, Wyoming, of 74 years, and rode with his 14-year-old grandson, Nathan, on his first ride. The grandfather, John, was most fascinated by the ride and said that he would never have believed it could be so beautiful from up there. It was kind of comical, though. Nathan said, “Come on, Grampa; go with me,» and he said, “Nope, I won’t ride in a plane.» Then just before we left, engine running, he said, “I changed my mind, I’m going,» and he jumped in. …


Okay, one more: We recently had a little gathering for one of our very own Salem, Oregon, band of Airport Bums, Gilbert Purdy, EAA 520216. Gilbert instructed in the BT-13 in the Navy during World War II. Later he flew the PBM and the PBY on submarine patrols. Remember the January 2011 issue of Sport Aviation that celebrated 100 years of naval aviation? Gilbert has that issue displayed in his hangar. He formerly owned and flew a Beech Sundowner. The reason for the gathering? Gilbert just turned 90 years old. He’s building an RV-9. He’s one of us.

There, a 50-year-old chapter, a longtime member with spirit and spunk, and a 90-year-old builder. All in all, a microcosm of the heart and soul of the EAA. That history is long and proud and should be preserved, honored, and fostered. It’s up to us—you and me—to keep it going. Knowing there are chapters like 105 and people like Larry and Gilbert makes the decision an easy one.

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