EAA Workshops Focus on Building Skills
EAA can always find its roots with the homebuilt community. The
skills needed to build your own plane, helicopter, or ultralight
have been passed on from one generation of EAA'ers to the next. The
most basic skills of the homebuilding trade include woodworking,
metalworking, composites, and fabrics.
To say the EAA refuses to let such skills die would be a pitiful
understatement. On the contrary, just a short walk from Show Center
and the Fly Market is found the campus for EAA workshops. As ANN
arrives, Eddie Kopf (right) of Las Vegas and Don Aldridge (left) of
Virginia, are taking instruction from EAA technical counselor Wayne
Petersen on sheet metal shaping.
At the other side of the room, a husband and wife team are
deeply focused on their learning exercise, which involves riveting
sheet metal and aluminum frame structure together. Don and Lois
Bigler of Dayton have been involved with aviation for 35 years. "We
don't have anything currently under construction," says Lois,
"We're just here for the fun of it." Don took an aluminum forming
and gas welding course a day or so prior. "[The instructor] made it
look really simple," said Don. "They are great instructors. I
worked around welding for years, and the instructors did a
marvelous job and taught safety."
"These folks today have been very patient with neophytes," Lois
laughs. "I think we both made every mistake in the book." The
couple went on to explain that they will take the sample parts back
to Dayton for future reference, as they plan to assist friends who
are building an RV-8.
Carl Franz is the Biglers' technical counselor, and with 38
years experience in the automotive fabrication business, he knows a
thing or two about riveting and metalworking. As Lois and Don
practiced their riveting, Franz, who has instructed for seven
years, commented on the trade. "If you drive about 200 rivets over
a 10-day period, you should be doing safe work," he said. "Riveting
is a lot of art. There's some science to it but most of it's art,
and there are good days and bad days. Learning the feel of a good
riveting day is crucial," Franz said.
Over at another nearby pavilion, instructors are teaching
students to cover fabric control surfaces. Paint brushes are used
to apply the "dope," which must be evenly applied as a protectant
against fuel, oil, and the elements. This class is part of a
multi-phase learning process for the students… in prior
courses they learned to build the structure of the control surface
through metalworking, and in this workshop they do the fabric
fitting, stitching, and doping.
EAA actively promotes the workshops, and offers courses for
Sheet Metal, Wood Rib Building, Fabric Construction, Gas Welding,
TIG Welding, Composites, Engine Assembly, and Aluminum Forming. A
couple of catch-all workshops are offered, such as the Aeroplane
Factory and Workshop Classroom. In the Aeroplane Factory, skilled
volunteers build actual aircraft and manage a myriad of smaller
The Workshop Classroom provides lectures and demonstrations that
cover many homebuilding subjects, from weight and balance to
electrical and painting.