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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Local aircraft enthusiasts gather for Christmas party at Leesburg airport

Members of the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 534 had an opportunity to look back at 2022 and ahead to 2023 at the group’s annual Christmas party on Dec. 3 in the Leesburg International Airport administration building.

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The EAA Chapter 534 annual Christmas Party was attended by 35 members in the Leesburg International Airport administration building.

The festive affair, attended by around 35 members, included delicious catered food, an old-fashioned Yankee Gift Swap, and remarks by outgoing president Steve Tilford and incoming president Mike Hage, both residents of The Villages. Chapter 534’s membership hails from Leesburg and surrounding towns, including The Villages.

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Marty Harris, who heads up the chapter’s aviation youth program, played the role of one of Santa’s Elves by conducting the Yankee Gift Swap, which is lways a highlight of the Christmas Party.

The Christmas party traditionally signals the beginning of a new year of flying and building activity at the airport, where the chapter maintains a hangar that is the center of their activity of teaching young people how to build and repair aircraft as well as prepare them to pursue any interest they may have in an aerospace future. The hangar also is the home of the chapter’s aviation youth group, Squadron 534.

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Nick Hopkins received a $5,000 Ray Aviation Scholarship for 2022. He is presently taking dual instruction to become a licensed motor glider pilot.

Over the last past four years, Chapter 534 – with the help of the national EAA organization – has awarded four Ray Aviation Scholarships to deserving aviation youth members. This year, a $5,000 Ray Scholarship was awarded to 15-year-old Nick Hopkins, who will train to become a licensed motor glider pilot. The first three scholarship recipients, who were awarded $10,000 each, are now FAA licensed private pilots and working on advanced ratings.

During the year, the EAA hangar is a beehive of activity of learning by both young and older members who are interested in general aviation flying, aircraft construction, and working together with other like-minded folks. This organization is open to people who are private pilots, aviation mechanics and aviation enthusiasts.

Once a month, EAA Chapter 534 hosts a Young Eagles free first flight rally, during which members take kids ages 8 to 17 for a short demonstration flight. Member pilots donate their time, airplanes and fuel to make sure these young people get a safe and enjoyable first time in the air in a single-engine general aviation aircraft.

The purpose of the monthly rallies is to acquaint young people with the joy of flying with the hope that someday they will elect to become private pilots themselves or decide they might want to learn more about some other aspect of the aerospace industry. To learn more about the Young Eagles program, visit the Young Eagles website.

The National Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh, Wis., charters local EAA chapters all over the globe, mostly at local airports. Some are busy airports like Leesburg International, while others are smaller grass airstrips.

For more information about the local chapter and the main organization, visit the Chapter 54 website or the EAA website.

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