For two years the members of the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 534 and their Aviation Youth Program have been restoring a damaged bright yellow aircraft to flight status.
This airplane had been nearly destroyed in a tornado at a different Florida airport and the original builder had thrown in the towel and decided to donate the remains to EAA Chapter 534 thinking they could use it as a restoration project for their Aviation Youth Program.
This airplane is a single seat light sport fixed wing airplane, called a Mini Max. Its wings had been badly damaged during the tornado and the plane was in sad shape when it arrived at the chapter’s hangar at the Leesburg International Airport.
When the old fabric was removed from what remained of the wings, the proposed restoration project was looking very challenging. Many of the wooden ribs would need to be replaced and it would need new spars. When this part of the project was completed new fabric covering and a new paint job would be needed.
The fuselage was in fairly good condition but required a few patches and some new paint. The engine had not been run for a long time so it was decided to remove it and check it out.
Over the two years the Mini Max project was the center piece in the chapter’s hangar. The adult members, sometimes called the hangar monkeys, usually meet on Thursday mornings to work on aircraft projects in the hangar. They thought it would be a good idea to use this project to teach members of the Aviation Youth Program how to restore a damaged airplane.
Fortunately, some of the members had experience with building their own airplanes and had the skills necessary to teach the kids and other adult members the fine art of building a wood and fabric airplane.
The thinking was that if this could be done the chapter could then sell the plane and use the money earned to buy another building project for the Aviation Youth Program and keep this going for years to come.
With the project now completed, the Mini Max was put up for sale and was purchased by a new pilot from New Hampshire, Rick Finethy. This will be his first airplane.
He arrived at the EAA Chapter 534 hangar on June 27, 2019 with a large rented box truck to pick up his like new airplane and drive it back to New Hampshire.
This necessitated removing the plane’s wings and with the help of the chapter’s hangar monkeys, stuffing the plane in the back of the truck. This project took most of the morning and it was discovered that the fuselage was just about two inches too long and the door of the box truck could not be closed.
Fortunately, the resourceful chapter members suggested removing the prop spinner, and that did the trick. They were then able to pull down the door of the truck with a couple inches to spare.
The hangar monkeys then helped Rick secure the fuselage and wings in the truck to make the long road trip back to New Hampshire.
As EAA members watched the truck pull out of the airport gate, many of them had lumps in their throats as they said goodbye to the yellow bird that had helped teach them so many aircraft building skills.
If you would like to learn more about EAA Chapter 534 you may go to the following web site: www.534.eaachapter.org
Story and photos by Ted Luebbers.