Dedicated organizations can find a way to get things done, on time, and on budget. Through member and community support, the worldwide Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 1210 of Biddeford, Maine built a pristine new hangar. Although they are a smaller chapter of the EAA, they are full of passion and drive (or should we say flight!).The EAA Chapter 1210 is a nonprofit organization made up of 46 members ranging from their 20s to late 80s. Some members fly daily, and and some are there to simply enjoy the camaraderie of the group. Established in 1996-97, the chapter dedicates its time to promoting general and recreational aviation within their community, with the goal of introducing young people to flying.
The group supports the Young Eagles program, and takes the kids on their first flights — potentially starting their journey as a pilot. They also raise money for medical Angel Flights, PALS, Life Flights and other charities each year.
Welch explains a little more about what the EAA is all about:
“We are a community of pilots and aviation enthusiasts who work to preserve and extend the freedom of flight, and to knock down barriers to personal aviation. We restore aircraft, do cookouts for the community. At the end of June the National Guard platoon will use our hangar for a family cookout, we host open houses to raise funds annually for Angel Flights to fund family medical flights, we raise more funds for PALS, Lifeflights and others…”
The mission to build their own hangar began in earnest 10 years ago. They started to raise funds to build their home base and promote aircraft projects, run aviation education programs, and utilize the space for their Young Eagles program.
Young Eagles are girls and boys with an early interest in aviation between the ages of 8 and 17.
The EAA teaches Young Eagle youth the basics of aerodynamics and principles of flight and gives their members a chance to fly in small aircraft.
Since 1992, more than 1.8 million Young Eagles have enjoyed a flight in a small aircraft from one of EAA’s volunteer pilots.
Young Eagles often become:
- Aircraft Mechanics
- Air Traffic Controllers
- Aviation Experts
With many career possibilities surrounding aviation, the options are endless for Young Eagles. The EAA takes pride in introducing tens of thousands of children to flight, flying activities, and aviation careers.
EAA Members donate the use of their planes, gas and other aviation materials to the Young Eagle program. The 1210 chapter has likely done over 200 flights for the Young Eagles. The EAA is passionate and charitable — Young Eagles can enjoy aviation training without having to pay anything.
Steve Welch, president of the local chapter knew what he was getting into when working towards purchasing and building a costly hangar.
Welch knew they needed to raise a lot of money to build the 60 ft. x 80 ft. hangar, so their chapter got to work:
“We worked at the International Seaplane Association Fly-In up in Greenville, Maine, and they gave us donations for that. We got cars, boats, anything we could get for free, fixed them up and sold them, had open houses and pancake breakfasts. The community was good at giving us stuff too…”
When construction began on the hangar, the hope was to complete it over the year — funds and weather allowing. After a long, harsh, and snowy winter, the EAA chapter picked up where they left off.
Construction took several long weekend days, a few weekday evenings, and lots of support from dedicated EAA chapter 1210 members. Each wall was constructed and raised one by one, then in late September trusses were put up with the help of 20 volunteers.
When the hangar began to take shape, more thought was put into purchasing a quality door that would keep the container secure and the aircraft safe.
Welch had planned to attend the spring Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-in Expo in Lakeland, Florida with the goal to find a hangar door manufacturer. He was given authorization to spend community and member raised funds to purchase a door for the hangar. Meanwhile, the other members continued to raise monetary and material donations for the continued construction on the hangar.
Here about the final door decision from Welch himself:
“I talked to all the dealers and told them that the guy with the sharpest pencil was going to get my order. That’s where I met Dave Schweiss from Schweiss Doors. I liked Dave and the salesmen from Schweiss Doors. Friday when we were about to leave I went back to all the guys and asked them what their price was. I told them we had a certain amount of money we could spend on the door and that it took years to raise money to build our hangar. Knowing we were a good organization, Dave said he would treat me as good as he could and called his brother Mike, the owner of Schweiss Doors. He sold us a Schweiss Bifold door at about half the price of the others. The Schweiss Door price was very good compared to all the others. Some of the other dealer prices weren’t too bad, but they tried to jack it up on the shipping and stuff. I told Dave that if I could put a Schweiss Door on the hangar, there are 29 more hangars at Biddeford with old barn doors on them which I would try to sell more Schweiss doors for…”
Welch, a man of his word, did create more business for Schweiss. Three more bifold and hydraulic Schweiss doors were sold at the airport.
“Mike was also good about throwing in the lift straps and auto locks. I was trying to get him to throw in the automatic opener — he wouldn’t do that, but gave us a case of caps instead,” chuckled Welch.
The Schweiss Bifold Door arrived in June when preparations for installation on the structure were complete. Members again volunteered their time and helped install the door frame. By the time October rolled around, the door had finally been finished and the rest of the hangar had been fitted with aluminum. Throughout construction, all of the EAA 1210 chapter members had helped out in one way or another.
Welch explains the Schweiss bifold door installation process:
“The bifold door installation went really well during one weekend of work. We followed the instruction manual and had equipment available to set the door in place. I think we called Schweiss Doors once or twice with electrical questions. They were great to us. I can’t say enough good for them. We also got advice from the Schweiss Door engineer on bracing the building. The well-braced door goes up and down and doesn’t move anything. It’s used a lot in the winter and seals up beautiful. I can open it even if snow is drifted up against it. Ordering the bifold style was the best thing we ever did. The straps and auto locks are great and the door opens fast with no grinding,”
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Welch noted that the door arrived on time and in great condition. The delivery driver was apt in letting Welch know when and where the door would arrive, and even backed the door directly in front of the hangar.
Welch’s final thoughts?
“I would and I do recommend Schweiss doors to others. We’ll demonstrate our door to others with no problem. I can’t say enough good about the company, they’ve been good to us…”
Three years after the construction of the hangar began, there was a ballot item added to the upcoming election attempting to close the Biddeford Airport. The EAA had to start rallying their community more than ever. November 4 was a stressful day for the EAA, its members, and the community. Citizens of Biddeford came through to rally and defeat the ballot item, keeping Biddeford Airport open for flight!
The EAA 1210 Chapter now has their very own hangar, home to various small aircraft. In case of a hail storm or other treacherous weather, they can pack seven or eight planes into the hangar. Otherwise, they store the airport tractor and snow removal equipment in the hand-built hangar. Additional space is rented to two planes with functional space left over for restoration projects.
Even though the hangar is now complete with a strong door, more funds are needed to finish a workshop and meeting room inside the hangar. For more information about EAA 1210 or to donate your time, money or services, you can contact Chapter President Steve Welch in Arundel, ME at 207-467-1086 or 207-967-4018 or Treasurer Vic Chewning in Kennebunk, ME at 207-985-1881.