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Wed, Jul 25, 2012

The Aeronca That 'Built 35 Kids' Donated To EAA Museum

Flabobians Put Words Into Action In Doing Something About The Future Of Aviation

By Maxine Scheer

At Phillips 66 Plaza, AirVenture attendees can see three aircraft from the historic Flabob Airport in Riverside, California including, The Flabob Express (a restored DC-3), a Cabin Waco, a 1937 biplane, and a 1941 Aeronca Chief, a fabric covered plane that was rebuilt by 35 students attending the Wathen Academy between 2000 and 2006.

EAA's AirVenture showcases aircraft that people build. With the presence of leaders, educators and students from the Tom Wathen Center, based at Flabob, AirVenture 2012 is showcasing aircraft credited with building 35 kids.

The project known as 'The Story of the Aeronca Kids' launched an aircraft building education initiative that continues today as an integral part of Flabob's passion for education through innovation. Students who work on the aircraft rebuilding projects are rewarded with an opportunity to earn significantly discounted flight instruction time. Students come to the airport on Saturdays to work on the restoration projects and are guided by volunteers that include master aircraft builders, some of whom are members of EAA Chapter 1, also based at Flabob.

Roger Farnes, project manager of the Aeronca project was proudly describing the story. Roger has an extensive background in aircraft maintenance and was able to draw volunteers from the many talented people who frequent the airport. When asked about challenges he replied, "keeping the kids interested and keeping it going. It was nearly a six year effort." The Aeronca made its debut at AirVenture in 2006. Farnes estimates that 21 of the students who built the airplane have earned their private pilot's certificate. He described how the students learned much more than manual skills, "they learned planning, cooperation, persistence, teamwork and leadership."

Anthony Ward was one of the original students who built the Aeronca. "I started working on the Aeronca at age 12 and essentially grew up with the project. I enjoyed learning about how an airplane gets put together and I can't tell you how many wing ribs we had to go through; they had to be perfect." Anthony now attends the aviation program at the University of North Dakota.

Flabob's leader, Tom Wathen, is donating the Aeronca to be added to the world-class collection of aircraft featured at the EAA Museum. "This airplane represents a way that enables kids to build their skills and an appreciation of aircraft building that represents the values of EAA," said Fred Telling, Chair of the EAA Museum Board.

"I couldn't be more proud of the students standing here in their red shirts," said Tom Wathen. "Our students, who call themselves 'The Aviators', are carrying on the mission of Flabob through two more restoration projects currently underway."

The student described how they fundraised for the trip to AirVenture. "We washed planes, 'marshalled aircraft' at the Riverside Airshow, and other types of fundraising."

Audrey and Brittany Cain, sisters, ages 15 and 17 (pictured), were able to attend the Academy after what they described as "a lot of begging" to mom.

Michael Crutcher, a junior, has attended the Academy for three years. "It's a friendly community, we have very good teachers, and I've learned a lot."

The people who represent this historic airport and its numerous education initiatives are known as "Flabobians", and host the Flabob Airport Preparatory Academy, a tuition-free, public charter middle and high school. They also hold numerous events that bring the best of the history of aviation to life.

Kathy Rohm, the Academy's VP of Community Relations, described 'The Aviators' extensive itinerary during AirVenture. She also invited anyone who's associated with Flabob to attend an event at AirVenture on Wednesday, 6pm at Whitman Terminal.

FMI: www.flabob.org/wathen.php

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