“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.