The EAA throws annual fly-in and hog roast

In celebration of grassroots American aviation, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) has been inspiring the weekend warriors of the sky since it’s inception in 1953. Mostly consisting of an older, male-dominated demographic among the association’s 180,000 members worldwide, UND students are determined to change that long-set reputation, maybe even making a few new friends along the way.

A short, 2,500-foot grass strip just north of Grand Forks in Manvel, N.D. was the location of the group’s annual fly-in and hog roast at Heyde Field Saturday morning. Members flew in old and new aircraft, in formation and solo on their way to the weekend camp-out.

Tents were pitched, and the campfire was set for a night away from all the stressors of college, especially the highly structured UND flight training outline that many aerospace students can find to be overwhelming at times. 

“It can get a little rigorous with all the structure in the training environment and this a fun way to come out with your friends and remember why you got into flying in the first place,” EAA 1342 president Trevor Hancock said.

While it is not directly sponsored by the university, UND’s EAA chapter 1342 is comprised exclusively of past or present UND staff and students.

The idea to create a similar chapter has never produced the same amount of excitement or success among an intercollegiate aviation university anywhere else in the world.

“For a chapter to be successful, you need to have social media communications to get people to know about it in the first place, that’s why it’s been so big this year,” EAA member Swayne Martin said. “Even something as simple as making a video about last year’s event ended up getting around 25,000 views on YouTube so when it comes to EAA, this chapter is now nationally recognized as the youngest and most successful EAA chapter in the country.”

Meeting with members from local EAA chapters outside of UND is a large motivation for some members to get involved with 1342 to further their knowledge inside and outside of aviation.

“What’s great about EAA, especially for UND students, is you get to meet with the other pilots from around the community. When you’re just with a UND group, you only meet with UND students, which is important, but it’s nice being able to interact with other pilots and learn their perspectives,” EAA 1342 vice-president Connor Bechtel said.

One of the highlights of the year for EAA members at UND is taking part in the Young Eagles Flight program. The event is sponsored by EAA and carried out by individual chapters and its members.

Chapter 1342 alone took 175 kids flying between Grafton and Crookston, N.D. last year.

“Young Eagles is a program with EAA dedicated to taking young kids flying, many, if not most, of whom have never been flying before and are going up for the first time in a small, general aviation airplanes, which is a really fun way to give back to the aviation community and inspire other pilots,” Martin said.

In Odegard room 114 were over 120 potential members, all college-aged aviators, male and female, at this years interest meeting, a number significantly higher than anyone involved with the group has ever attested to seeing.

“EAA has brought a lot of people together. When I started my freshman year it was nowhere near this big. Now the group has grown to over 100 people at the last meeting, getting people interested in the general aviation side of flying,” EAA member Allison Hunt said.

For everyone involved, there’s a distinct purpose that has specifically driven him or her to choose to continue with the organization, but at the root of them all is one common reason.

“EAA has pushed me as an individual to get out of my comfort zone as I progressed through the leadership roles to President. I never saw myself doing this when I first started at UND, but as part of the bigger picture, it’s given me a great group of friends and memories through all the events we’ve taken part in over the years,” Hancock said.

Declan Hoffman is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]