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The new Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 1635 in Fredericktown recently held a Sheet Metal Fabrication Class at the A. Paul Vance Regional Airport. 

EAA Chapter 1635 members Ivan James, Mike Uding, Rick Probst, Pat James, Joe Clauser and Larry Gregory guided those attending through basic sheet metal fabrication skills to build a cell phone holder.

The experience was hands-on for both the students and the teachers as they guided the participants through each step. Clauser chose to learn alongside the students and provided another example for youth to follow.

"Saturday's class was designed to introduce youth to sheet metal fabrication," Gregory said. "This involved shaping, bending, drilling and riveting 2021 aluminum alloy which is the most common material in airplane skins."

Gregory said skins are what covers the structure of most general aviation aircraft and they help to carry the load.

"This class was a true introduction and really focused on basic tools and taught basic skills," Gregory said. "Though this class was targeted to those youth who participated in our Young Eagles Rally on Nov. 9, it was appropriate for youth or adults." 

Gregory said sheet metal, specifically the various grades of aluminum alloy, are the primary structure materials of the majority of general aviation aircraft. He said a basic understanding of working with aluminum alloy is important for a better understanding of aircraft.

"Unlike our automobiles which are constructed of steel and steel alloys, aircraft need to be much lighter and aluminum alloy is both strong and light," Gregory said. "Our goal is to introduce the skills and tools involved to the youth and then let them experience the the thrill of using the tools to complete their projects." 

Gregory said the chapter hopes the hands-on use of the tools to complete their projects created excitement and a sense of accomplishment in the participants.

"We are discussing our 2020 plans and for certain we will have Young Eagles events in Fredericktown and Perryville," Gregory said. "We are also committed to Eagle Flight, 18 years and older, in Fredericktown in 2020 and perhaps other communities as well." 

Gregory said the group plans to host two or three more hands-on events in 2020 and have discussed fabric covering, flight planning and fiberglass repairs as potential topics. 

"Our dreams are big," Gregory said. "We would like to be recognized by the communities we serve as a positive role model for non-profit organizations designed to educate the public. In our case the focus is all phases of aviation, not just flying but including air traffic control, building, restoring, design and customization."

EAA has its headquarters in Oshkosh, WI with individual chapters found across the USA as well as internationally. 

"Membership is open to all," Gregory said. "The national organization has membership fees as do each of the chapters. It is not a pilots-only organization."

The goal of EAA and their chapters is to promote all aspects of aviation to the public. Their focus is on youths through Young Eagles and adults through Eagles for 18-years-old and up.

"Building aircraft is the focus on some chapters while others focus more on aviation education and outreach to the community," Gregory said. "Some chapters are focused more on vintage aircraft while others are focused on experimental and light sport aircraft. As a new chapter we are focused more on outreach to the communities we serve."

The EAA Chapter 1635 meets the third Thursday of each month at a rotating list of local airport FBOs (fixed based operators), A. Paul Vance Regional Airport in Fredericktown, Farmington Regional Airport, and Perryville Regional Airport. The meetings are open to the public and begin with dinner at 6 p.m., followed by a program.

Gregory said chapter dues are $15 a year for students, $25 per year for an individual and $37.50 for a family membership. 

At the end of the event Nov. 23, each participant left with a certificate for completing the course as well as their new custom cellphone holder. When asked if they would like to return for another class all of the participants quickly replied in unison with a loud "yes." 

Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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