Heartland Chapter 1240 of the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) was incorporated in 1998 and is a passionate group of people interested in general aviation. With the addition of the “Young Eagles,” this group includes those from age 8 up to older adults.
Every second Saturday of the month, Chapter 1240 of the EAA, holds a fundraiser breakfast to benefit the youth program at the Sebring airport. Saturday, the menu included fresh blueberry pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage and hash browns.
The breakfast was held inside the hangar overlooking the take-off and landing area so attendees could also watch the planes. Inside the terminal, you could also watch some of the Young Eagles work on building a plane.
The Sebring Regional Airport (SRA) provided two hangers for the chapter to use, at no charge. The Young Eagles received a donated 1958 Aeronca Tri-Champ through Build-A-Plane. The youth project included being able to re-fabric the aircraft. The group also received a donated 1946 Aeronca Champ from a private donor.
Current President, John Rousch, was teaching an aerospace class which became very popular at Lake Placid High School. In 2010 A Memorandum of Understanding was developed by the EAA Chapter to form a partnership between 1240, the Sebring Regional Airport, the Highlands County School Board and the Heartland Workforce Board.
The intent was to promote youth aviation education and support of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum. The chapter has over 100 members at this time.
It’s interesting to note that Sebring Regional Airport also has some significant history. During World War II it was known as Hendricks’s Field and was a B-17 training base. The EAA’s ongoing efforts to recognize our history coincides with their vision of the future with their youth programs.
In 2017 Lockwood Aviation provided the funding for Rousch to continue teaching the Aviation Aeroscience curriculum for the school district. Students in the program are building an AirCam aircraft that was purchased by NASA astronaut, Story Musgrave. Musgrave led the repair of the Hubble telescope.
“Story lives in Kissimmee and comes over to work on the project with the students when he is available. The students also have another project. Dr. Owens (Mid-Florida Dental Care) is providing a kit for high school students in the program.”
Selby Proud and Polly Whiteside were enjoying breakfast in the hangar. “I have a Bonanza aircraft and fly out of Lake Placid,” said Proud.
Beth and Larry Adams were having pancakes and scrambled eggs. “My son is a cook here and my grandson is one of the kids building the plane,” said Larry Adams.
“A lot of what goes on here is because of Lt. James C. Ray. He was a B-17 pilot in the Air Force during World War II. This was built through grants from the Ray Foundation,” said Rousch.
The students were working on the AirCam aircraft in the breakfast hanger.
“This is the end of two years of hard work,” explained Michael Halpern, building instructor. “We hope it will be finished this summer. This is an all-volunteer group that works year-round.”
The group today included Luke and Jude Halpern (Michael’s sons), Nicole Blount and Madi Murphy.
Luke is a graduating high school senior and already has his private pilot’s license. “You can fly solo about half-way through the lessons. It’s awesome. Once you become a licensed pilot, you can take passengers. I took my parents and grandparents over to Miami. I rent a plane through the Flight Club.”
Nicole is a student pilot. “It’s different than I expected. There is so much freedom up there.” It’s a lot of learning, but it’s worth it.”
“This group is full of passionate people with a common interest. They may have a different connection, management, building or flying, but we all love it,” said Michael Halpern, building instructor.