It has finally happened: The expansion of the EAA Chapter 1240 Aviation Development Center has been completed to the level that will allow us to conduct our monthly pancake breakfasts again. We have missed our community regulars and hopefully we will see them and others tomorrow, Nov. 9, through gate 24 at the Sebring Regional Airport.

I have been asked many times over the last four months how the project was going. My common response was, “It is an adventure.” We had plans, a schedule, and a sequence of the many puzzle parts that had to happen to get it done. It didn’t take long for the whole sequence to fall off the rails. From that point on it required re-engineering the plan to meet new building codes, ordering additional steel parts for the new codes and dealing with the new daily or weekly challenge that had to be met and how to adjust the “plan.”

Solutions were developed and we moved ahead, but it took more and more time and our “completion” date kept moving further into the future. One thing that didn’t change was the commitment of all involved to get the project done.

The winds last month held up the installation of the insulation and steel siding panels. Thin narrow 20-foot panels are hard to control safely in any kind of significant breeze. Who thought that there might be wind at an airport? We handled it. Moving the 60-by-16-foot hangar door presented the greatest challenge.

It had been in place for six years and was a bit stubborn to be taken down. It had to be disassembled and required additional heavy equipment. We could not conduct the high school classes in the hangar while the door was being moved, so we had to make some adjustments with the school program. What was estimated to be a two-day job turned into more than a week.

With the additional steel required for the new codes for the extension, we found once we were able to get the door off the original location, it would not fit in the new opening. Brian Cox, the contractor foreman in charge of erecting the extension, came up with some ingenious solutions to make it work, and we were back on schedule.

Soon after the door was reinstalled and the construction waste was cleaned up, the electricians arrived to extend the circuits allowing us to conduct our breakfast. There are additional items to be completed such as sealing and painting the new floor and repainting the original floor. That will not hold us back from serving pancakes and all the other goodies.

One thing is for sure, we will have more than enough room for all who come by tomorrow. There are two additional bathrooms in the hangar area. There will be more room for the AirCam project and astronaut Story Musgrave indicated he will be at the hangar tomorrow assisting with the AirCam. We will also be conducting Young Eagle flights for youth ages 8 to 17. A parent or guardian is required to be present to sign the Young Eagle registration forms.

So, come on out and see what we have done and get reacquainted with all that is going on. Many of the students who are enrolled in the high school program will be there. You will get a first-hand opportunity to chat with them about what they are doing. Breakfast is served from 8-10:30 a.m. Follow the signs around the airport to Gate 24. See you tomorrow.

John Rousch is EAA Chapter 1240 president and is the director of the Highlands Aviation and Aerospace Academy, a community partnership between the School Board of Highlands County, the Sebring Regional Airport, EAA Chapter 1240, and Career Source Heartland, and other community groups supporting youth. He can be reached at johnrousch73@gmail.com, call or text 863-273-0522.

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