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Gold struck at the Sebring airport

“It was like drinking from a firehose” were the comments from Dale Huffman and Mike Halpern after they returned from the recent Experimental Aircraft Association Leadership Boot Camp held in Lakeland on Feb. 1. The EAA National HQ staff provides one day intense leadership programs for EAA chapter officers and other members interested in enhancing and expanding local chapter operations. The “boot camps” are condensed from the normal two- to three-day sessions held at EAA headquarters in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Boot camps are offered at different times in different locations around the United States. The one-day session is like putting 10 pounds of potatoes in a five-pound sack. It is intensive and fast paced.

EAA Chapter 1240 officers Dale Huffman (president) and Mike Halpern (vice-president) spent the day absorbing the best practices and networking with over 35-plus participants. Another reaction from both was the realization that many of the ideas brought forward are already being done here in EAA Chapter 1240, and that we are very fortunate to have the facility at the airport and the support of the community and active chapter members.

My wife Becky and I attended a boot camp a few years ago held at Spruce Creek, Florida. We were enthused to take the ideas shared and bring them back to our local 1240 chapter. (Happy Valentine’s Day, Becky. She has been a great partner as she has been the better half of many of our EAA adventures over the years. I am one very lucky man.)

Even though you might hear the same great ideas shared again at an EAA boot camp, the opportunity to meet and network with folks from other chapters can be one of the most valuable parts of the program. There are over 900 EAA chapters spread around the world.

Starting this year, EAA HQ has implanted a program to recognize chapters and their level of success and community involvement. Base upon a review of 10 elements of activity and community support, chapters are awarded Bronze, Silver and Gold level recognition. Our EAA Chapter 1240 achieved nine out of the 10 elements required for a “Gold” level award. We are proud of that accomplishment, but most of all it reflects we are doing things that are important by involving our community in exploring the options and opportunities in aviation and aerospace for young and old alike.

If you have an interest in aviation /aerospace, consider getting involved with our local EAA Chapter 1240. You don’t need to be a pilot. Just have an interest in aviation, be willing to have fun and learn new things, and hang around with folks from all walks of life that have a common interest. Our chapter meets the second Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. in our EAA Chapter 1240 Aviation Development Center, Gate 24, at the Sebring Regional Airport.

The meeting starts with a potluck followed by a short chapter update and then a program on an aviation topic or demonstration. We always want you to leave the meeting with the feeling your time was well invested and you came away knowing something new. For more information about EAA Chapter 1240, contact me or Dale Huffman, president, at dalehuffman@comcast.net.

John Rousch 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.

Blazing a trail for young people to follow

NASA astronaut Christina Hammock Koch ended a lengthy tenure on the International Space Station this month when she and two colleagues returned to Earth, landing in a remote desert in the middle of Kazakhstan. Doing so, she put her name in the record books: the longest single spaceflight by a woman at 328 days. It’s a record that will stand for a long time to come.

We can’t help feeling a bit of hometown pride in Koch because, while she was born in Michigan, she grew up in Jacksonville. She graduated from the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham in 1997 and earned bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and physics and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from N.C. State in Raleigh. No doubt she took the best parts of N.C. with her when she was selected for candidate training at NASA in 2013.

During her time on the ISS, Koch took part in six spacewalks, leading to a total of 42 hours and 15 minutes floating outside the station. In October, Koch and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir performed the first all-female spacewalk. Koch said she and Meir appreciated that their spacewalk “could serve as an inspiration for future space explorers.”

“We both drew a lot of inspiration from seeing people that were reflections of ourselves as we were growing up and developing our dreams to become astronauts,” Koch told The Associated Press from the space station. “So to recognize that maybe we could pay that forward and serve the same for those that are up and coming was just such a highlight.

“Diversity is important, and I think it is something worth fighting for,” she said. We agree.

Koch’s record falls 12 days short of the record for a single spaceflight by an American, that of retired astronaut Scott Kelly, who lived on the ISS for 340 consecutive days. Astronaut Peggy Whitson holds the record for the total days in space by any NASA astronaut, at 665.

Returning to a gravity-rich environment, Koch will no doubt go through a period of physical readjustment that will be dizzying at times, just as Kelly described in his 2018 book “Endurance.” Living without the firm grip of the Earth is just one of the challenges that must be confronted if we’re to have even a semi-permanent presence on the moon — or send human beings to Mars — goals in which the Trump administration has expressed interest.

“When we send humans to Mars, we need data on the long-term effects of space on the human body,” Ellen Stofan, a former chief scientist at NASA who now runs the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, said. “And we know there are differences between how men and women react to space.”

There are also psychological challenges to meet. Before her return, Koch said, “Oh, how I miss the wind on my face, the feeling of raindrops, sand on my feet and the sound of surf crashing on Galveston Beach.”

Koch said it was crucial to stay connected to loved ones — including her husband, Bob — through phone calls and video conferences.

She also expressed an interest in chips and salsa, which she hadn’t eaten in almost 11 months.

As we encourage our youth to pursue STEM topics — science, technology, engineering and math — and we’d add art to make it STEAM — we can point them to Koch as an example of someone with N.C. connections who pushed the limits of human knowledge and endurance, blazing a trail for others to follow.

An editorial from The Winston-Salem Journal, North Carolina.