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New Garden flight group chapter celebrates 50 years

06/16/2015 02:13PM ● Published by Richard Gaw

In the quiet moments before we was about to offer a welcome to the 100 aviators, their families and dignitaries who attended the 240 Chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association's [EAA] 50th-year celebration at New Garden Flying Field on June 13, chapter president Mike Parry was asked what this day meant to the 187-member group he runs.

He began to answer, but soon became emotional and silent, as if a flood of memories and faces suddenly overcame his ability to speak.

"It's an accumulation of a lot of work, and a lot of people," Parry said. "It's a whole team's efforts. We've been working for this since the chapter was born, with just under 40 people fifty years ago. With every generation and every investment made, this chapter has grown, and we've gotten to the point now that we're outgrowing this facility in New Garden."

During a full day of handshakes, re acquaintances, demonstrations and aviation stories, chapter members shared their kinship with the chapter, which traces its roots to 1965, when 34 original members held their first meeting in September of that year. From that humble beginning, Chapter 240 has grown to become one of the national EAA's most successful chapters, with a constant roster of events throughout the year.

All glad tidings of the day aside, what has established Chapter 240 as one of the bright lights on the EAA national roster has been the work it continues to do to attract young people with an interest in aviation directly to the cockpit. They are up against the odds; Parry said that many factors threaten the future of aviation, namely, the fact that it can price many of those with an interest in aviation out of the market, and the reduction in the number of airports in the United States.

Parry's concerns dovetailed with the address given by Court Dunn, the head of the New Garden Flight Connection Flight School and a fixture at the Flying Field's Young Aviators Camp. Dunn, who opened his address by sharing his frustration at having to often suspend his love of aviation for financial reasons, gave credit to Chapter 240 for its continuing efforts to provide aviation opportunities for young people. The chapter's Young Eagles program, sponsored by the EAA Aviation Foundation, provides a motivational aviation experience for the younger generation, offering more than 100 local children a year with free flights and flight instruction, given by EAA members. The first Young Eagles Day was held in May, which drew 33 young people for a full day of instruction and flight.

In addition, the chapter gives two flight training scholarships to young people at the New Garden Flying Field, each year.

Dunn spoke about the offer given to him by New Garden Flying Field Director Jon Martin six years ago to operate the flight school, and why he decided to accept the offer.

"As a teacher, I simply wanted to provide opportunities, affordability and the infrastructure, so that no one would ever have to go through the long, arduous process that I did, simply to be able to do what they wanted to do," said Dunn. "I wanted to provide opportunities for young people who wanted to fly, with, at the very least, the understanding that it can be done and that we, as the flying community, would do everything we could to support their dreams and passion. we would expose them with planes to fly and educate them about the possibilities that exist in the world, to help them pursue their dreams."

Dunn said that while the average age of aviators continues to rise in the United States, the average age of pilots at the New Garden Flying Field is decreasing.

"In any organization, at any time, we are only one generation removed from extinction," he said. "Unless we can attract those younger than ourselves, our sport, our hobby, our pastime, and for some our profession, we will be in trouble," he said.

"Without the young to sit at our feet, without the youth of today to listen to our stories...we will have no one to pass on our passion and knowledge," Dunn said. "We all have a vested interest in pursuing the next generation. EAA 240 has seen the fight, implemented a plan of action, and pursued its vision with vigor."

Additional speakers included Martin, EAA national representative Sean Elliott, FAA representative Joseph Lamonaca and scholarship recipient Jimmy Reagan.

 To learn more about Chapter 240, visit www.eaa240.org.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@chestercounty.com.



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