Fueling Dreams of Aviation

By on August 26, 2019
Baby Ace Restoration Team (BART) surrounding the fuselage: left to right: Tyler Mullen, Lauren Rosenthal, Dhruva Rana, Pete Bonneau, Jim Gooding, Bob Nelligan-Barrett, Vet Thomas, Clara Montalbano, Earl Luce, Elio Dominguez-Montalbano, Gail Isaac and Bruce Willis

Baby Ace Restoration Team (BART) surrounding the fuselage: left to right: Tyler Mullen, Lauren Rosenthal, Dhruva Rana, Pete Bonneau, Jim Gooding, Bob Nelligan-Barrett, Vet Thomas, Clara Montalbano, Earl Luce, Elio Dominguez-Montalbano, Gail Isaac and Bruce Willis

Rochester’s Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 44 is an organization founded in 1957 that enables people to realize their dreams of flight. Their mission states, “EAA Chapter 44 was established to encourage, aid, and engage in study for the improvement and better understanding of aviation and the science of aeronautics, to promote and engage in the cause of aviation safety and education, to encourage and promote the development of private aviation and the development of amateur-built aircraft through home engineering, and finally, to foster close fellowship through the exchange of ideas, skills, and mutual interests. And to have fun doing it.”

The current President of EAA Chapter 44 is Randy Spurr. Spurr has had his Private Pilot License since 1984, and has been involved with the organization for three years. He said, “The Rochester Chapter of EAA was founded on building airplanes. The building of personal planes with kits was very popular at one time but went through a dark period, the kits just weren’t available. Now in the last ten years because of changes in laws, it has allowed smaller companies to pop up and make the kits for the home aircraft builder. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) now offers a Sport Pilot License with far less restrictions than the commercial pilot’s license. It is easier to get your license, and it has allowed more people to get into flying. It is also way more affordable.” 

The EAA Chapter 44 is a group of about 100 members, half of which are licensed pilots who own their planes and some are building an aircraft at home. Other members of the group are those with a general interest in aviation.

EAA Chapter 44 is the only chapter in Rochester and the members are from all across the Rochester area. The organization operates out of space at the Ledgedale Airport, 44 Eisenhauer Drive, Brockport. The group is also currently in the final stages of forming a Flying Club. Spurr said, “If you are building an aircraft, our group can help you put it together and get you flying. We also have airplanes available to anyone who wants to join and learn to fly.”

Spurr says that one area of his focus as president of EAA has been to step up the youth aspect of the club. Currently the EAA has 12 high school youth members. They recently formed Explorer Post 44 which is designed to nurture interest in aviation in young people. The Explorers 44 offers an eight week program where students visit the airport, attend seminars with guest speakers and explore all aspects of aviation and of a career in aviation. 

There is also a Young Eagle Event held four times during the summer months. The event is designed to introduce young people to the joy and excitement of aviation. Free flights are given to students ages eight to 17 years. Chapter 44 has given free Young Eagle rides to over 2,000 happy children. Member pilots donate their time and aircraft at no cost to give free airplane rides to stimulate more interest in aviation. This activity includes orientation classes about aviation, chart reading, flight planning, preflight and control of aircraft. The last Young Eagle Event of 2019 will be held on September 14. For more information on free flights for youth, visit www.EAA44.org. 

Spurr said part of the focus on youth is based on the fact that over the next five years there will be a massive need for pilots. As air travel grows, the interest in aviation as a career is shrinking. “Pilots are required to retire at age 67. With many baby boomers reaching retirement age, it is a real problem for the airlines. The kids just aren’t interested in a career as a pilot. Much of the problem is that in the past, airlines didn’t pay well at the entry level jobs. It took a while to move up the line to the bigger airlines. That all changed with the pilot shortage. The regional airlines are forced to pay a good wage from the start. That opens up aviation as a career for more people. We just need to get the word out,” Spurr says. The shortage in pilots has also resulted in airlines offering student scholarships for aviation careers.

Another program that EAA Chapter 44 offers for youth and adults is the BART (Baby Ace Restoration Team). The program consists of students and adults working together to completely restore a donated plane and engine. The youth are getting experience with the skills needed to build an aircraft and the adults are sharing and teaching their skills to the youth. The BART Group meets every Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Ledgedale Airport.

For more information on EAA Chapter 44 visit www.EAA44.org.

Dhruva Rana, Elija Brewer, Elio Dominguez-Montalbano and Tyler Mullen are working on the structure of the wing of a Corben Baby Ace. The ribs and spars of the wing are being smoothed on the leading edge of the wing.

Dhruva Rana, Elija Brewer, Elio Dominguez-Montalbano and Tyler Mullen are working on the structure of the wing of a Corben Baby Ace. The ribs and spars of the wing are being smoothed on the leading edge of the wing.

Tyler Mullen of Hilton, Dhruva Rana of Pittsford, Elio Dominguez-Montalbano and Elijah Brewer both from Greece by one of the planes at Ledgedale Airpark in Brockport.

Tyler Mullen of Hilton, Dhruva Rana of Pittsford, Elio Dominguez-Montalbano and Elijah Brewer both from Greece by one of the planes at Ledgedale Airpark in Brockport.

Baby Ace Restoration Team (BART) surrounding the fuselage: left to right: Tyler Mullen, Lauren Rosenthal, Dhruva Rana, Pete Bonneau, Jim Gooding, Bob Nelligan-Barrett, Vet Thomas, Clara Montalbano, Earl Luce, Elio Dominguez-Montalbano, Gail Isaac and Bruce Willis

Baby Ace Restoration Team (BART) surrounding the fuselage: left to right: Tyler Mullen, Lauren Rosenthal, Dhruva Rana, Pete Bonneau, Jim Gooding, Bob Nelligan-Barrett, Vet Thomas, Clara Montalbano, Earl Luce, Elio Dominguez-Montalbano, Gail Isaac and Bruce Willis.

The group standing with “Buttercup” left to right: Elijah Brewer, Jason Brewer, Lauren Rosenthal, Clara Montalbano, Pete Bonneau, Bob Nelligan-Barrett, Gail Isaac, Bruce Willis, Earl Luce, and Dhruva Rana. Buttercup is a repluca of the original Wittman Buttercup in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and owned by Earl Luce.

The group standing with “Buttercup” left to right: Elijah Brewer, Jason Brewer, Lauren Rosenthal, Clara Montalbano, Pete Bonneau, Bob Nelligan-Barrett, Gail Isaac, Bruce Willis, Earl Luce, and Dhruva Rana. Buttercup is a repluca of the original Wittman Buttercup in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and owned by Earl Luce.

Elio Dominguez-Montalbano is at a desktop simulator.

Elio Dominguez-Montalbano is at a desktop simulator.

Tyler Mullen and Earl Luce flying Buttercup.

Tyler Mullen and Earl Luce flying Buttercup.

Vet Thomas and Dhruva Rana flying Vet’s Piper Cub Experimental Amateur-Built “EA-B” also know as “Homebuilts.”

Vet Thomas and Dhruva Rana flying Vet’s Piper Cub Experimental Amateur-Built “EA-B” also know as “Homebuilts.”

Kevin Rana is at a Flight Simulator from the 1970’s, operating system uses cassette tapes.

Kevin Rana is at a Flight Simulator from the 1970’s, operating system uses cassette tapes.

Bob Nelligan-Barrett, Vet Thomas and Jim Gooding making a repair to the rib.

Bob Nelligan-Barrett, Vet Thomas and Jim Gooding making a repair to the rib.

Pete Bonneau and Tyler Mullen working on the rib.

Pete Bonneau and Tyler Mullen working on the rib.

Dhruva Rana on the large flight simulator.

Dhruva Rana on the large flight simulator.

Vet Thomas and Elio Dominguez-Montalbano waiting for Earl Luce to get the propeller started.

Vet Thomas and Elio Dominguez-Montalbano waiting for Earl Luce to get the propeller started.

Jim Gooding and Pete Bonneau working on the rib.

Jim Gooding and Pete Bonneau working on the rib.