Monday, December 29, 2014

Milestone: Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1093 • Jack Barstow Airport (KIKW), Midland, Michigan

Nick King/Midland Daily News NICK KING
Midland's Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1093 member Dick Sipp works on a Van's Aircraft RV-12 on Sunday in the Ormond Barstow Aviation Education Center the at Jack Barstow Airport. Sipp was finishing an annual inspection of the plane. Sipp, who has been a member in the Midland chapter since 2005, says that the personality of the chapter is unique in that it really focuses on youth activities and education which helps others get into aviation. The chapter, now 80 members strong, will celebrate their 20th anniversary on Jan. 8.

Jan. 5 marks a milestone for Midland’s Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1093.

On that day in 1995 a group of 12 men and women met at 7 p.m. in Bob Anderson’s hangar at Jack Barstow Airport to hold their first meeting.

Now 80 members strong, the group will celebrate its anniversary Jan. 8 in their own building at the airport.

“We are going to have cake and ice cream,” said president Mike Woodley, laughing.

The Midland chapter is part of an organization that was founded in 1953 in Milwaukee, Wis., by a group of individuals who were interested in building their own planes. With chapters all over the world and a membership numbering more than 180,000, the group has expanded to include all those who have a passion for aviation.

The Midland chapter got off the ground when Walt Suminski and Dale Johnson, members of the Saginaw, Midland, Bay City EEA Chapter 159, thought the Jack Barstow Airport in Midland would be the perfect site for a chapter.

“Midland is ideally located for learning and teaching aviation,” said Suminski. “North of Midland is nothing but farm land. Pilots learning to fly can fly north and not interfere with towers and cities. It’s really a natural.”

The two rolled up their sleeves and got down to business.

But it wasn’t easy, remembers Suminski.

“In order to start a chapter, we had to have a certain amount of charter members, 10-12,” he said. “We got the names together and submitted it to the EAA convention office in Oshkosh, Wis. If they think it looks doable, they assign you a chapter, give you the by laws and instructions on how to set it up. We decided to do it.”

They were assigned Charter 1093 with Johnson elected president, Dr. John W. Shriner, vice president, Jim Powell, treasurer and Suminski as secretary.

That was the easy part. They group had to come up with a place to meet, raise some money and become a 501 (c)(3)organization.

Member Bob Anderson not only offered his hanger for meetings, but through his business, Reliable Printing, did the newsletter for free.

The group wanted their own place, a place where they could teach people of all ages the love of flying.

But with $20 in their pockets, and dues of $12 per year, that dream wasn’t going to be a reality without a lot of work.

“We had a Christmas party,” Suminski said. “We had an auction at the party and we had a tremendous turnout. Some members bid enormous amounts of money for Mickey Mouse things. We had ice cream socials, open houses, all the things we could think of to try and raise money. We progressed and built up our treasury.”

With a price tag of $30,000 for the shell of a building, that amount of money wasn’t going to be raised with auctions and ice cream.

The group went to the Barstow Foundation, who offered to match a dollar with every dollar the group made, then raised that to $2 for one, giving the group $20,000 if they could come up with $10,000.

“We didn’t have the 10,” Suminski said. “We went back to our members. They contributed from $200 to $500 each and we came up with the $10,000.”

Donations helped as well. A pilot passed away and gave the group a customized van, which they sold. Jack Yoder also left the group a number of hangers in his will, and The Dow Chemical Co. donated all the insulation for the building.

“We never could have done it without all our volunteers pitching in,” Suminski said.

Two years into their charter, they broke ground on what would become the Ormond Barstow Aviation Education Center. Ormond Barstow was the brother of Jack Barstow.

Educate they do, offering the Young Eagles free flights for kids ages 8 through 17 on the Second Saturday of each month, and a week-long aviation camp in the summer for students in ninth through twelfth grades.

“We don’t teach kids to fly,” said Dot Hornsby, who leads the programs. “We give them a well rounded experience in aviation.”

The top three students from the class are flown to the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, held each year.

The group also hosts two pancake breakfasts and fly-ins each year. Dates for 2015 are May 2 and Sept. 12, as well as a Santa Fly In, with crafts.

On the drawing board for this year, is the Midland Community Aviation Discovery Area on a piece of vacant land at the airport. Partnering with the Midland Area Community Foundation as part of the STEM program, the area will have picnic tables, benches and educational displays, as well as front row seats to watch the planes come in.

As for the future, Suminski still has a few dreams he would like to see fulfilled.

“I would like to build onto the chapter building,” he said. “A classroom where young pilots just learning to fly can come in and get weather briefings, talk to other pilots, sit down with instructors.”

“I was also looking to add on a tool shop where you can fabricate and make the parts you need rather than buying them,” he said.

And, last but not least, when it’s time for the Oshkosh convention, he would like Midland to be a welcoming airport for those who are flying in from all over the world.

“They could come in and fill up at a reduced rate, have some homemade doughnuts and coffee,” he said. “You would see all kinds of air planes fly into Midland.”

The Midland chapter is open to anyone who has a love of flying, whether they own a plane or not. Dues are $25 for the local chapter and $35 for the national membership per year.

Meetings are held the first Thursday of each month.

For more information, check out the Web site at, or call Woodley at (586) 944-7101.

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