Back in 1953, Paul Poberezny, who had founded the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in his basement in a Milwaukee suburb, wanted to increase membership. Duane Cole, of the Cole Bros. Flying Circus, suggested that Paul write to Ray Stits at Flabob. Ray was already famous as the builder of the world’s smallest airplane. Paul’s letter got buried under a pile of papers on the desk of Flabob owner Flavio Madariaga, but it eventually reached Ray. Ray replied that EAA sounded like a good idea, but it was a long drive from Riverside to Milwaukee, and so Ray suggested that the EAA bylaws be changed to permit formation of local chapters. He was confident, he assured Paul, that inside of ten years he could have as many as one hundred members in California alone. Early in 1954, the very first EAA chapter charter was issued to EAA Chapter One, which is alive and well at Flabob.
That’s the way we remember it, and it is pretty close to the way EAA remembers it, as related in the August, 2008, issue of Sport Aviation:
“EAA Chapter 1 in Riverside, California, held its first meeting on January 24, 1954 — two days less than a year after EAA’s inaugural meeting. The man responsible for initiating the chapter concept was homebuilt aircraft designer and enthusiastic EAA supporter Ray Stits. Because of the distance from the parent organization and the perceived need for local representation to quickly expand EAA’s influence, Ray successfully petitioned the organization to approve the chapter concept. The constitution was amended, Ray formed Chapter 1, and the rest is history. Paul Poberezny: ‘One time when I was talking with Ray (Stits) about the future of the EAA, he told me it will grow into the largest and most active group of aviation enthusiasts, builders, and fliers in the U.S. within five years. How right he was — and how much he has helped us get there. Ray Stits has been one of our greatest supporters through the years.’ ”
Chapter One, the mother of a thousand chapters, holds meetings on the second Saturday of each month, immediately following the monthly Young Eagles rally.
Ray Stits is almost always present to greet you, along with his lovely wife, Edie. Lunch at the chapter building at noon and the chapter meeting commences at 1 pm or the completion of the Young Eagles event, whichever is later. Chapter One board meeting immediately follows the chapter meeting. Visitors are welcome.
EAA Chapter One runs the Young Eagles Program at Flabob, where more than 14,000 youngsters have received their free first airplane ride. Chapter One has held an annual Open House for more than fifty years, one of the longest-running aviation events in the nation. Here’s some footage on YouTube of an Open House more than fifty years ago.
For more information about all EAA Chapter One events, go to their website …