Tahlequah Daily Press

May 1, 2013

Building a better bird

Staff Writer

COOKSON — Dennis Stephen has been flying home-built aircraft for 39 years. Not for a career or business-related activity, but just for fun.

The Cookson resident has constructed three experimental amateur-built aircraft during this time and is now looking to get the word about the Experimental Aircraft Association chapter that meets every third Thursday of the month at the Tenkiller Airpark.

Stephen said the Cookson EAA Chapter 1040 was once active, but membership eventually waned. He and about 20 other members are now in search of other people who share their interest and passion for flying and building planes.

“When I moved down here  - and a couple of the other people who retired and moved in from up north in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan - we were all members of EAA chapters back before we retired, so we kind of wanted to get one started again,” he said. “There used to be one here, and it was Chapter 1040. So we’ve revived it.”

Stephen and the other Chapter 1040 members would like to grow their membership base and draw other experienced pilots and flying enthusiasts, as well as draw people who possess novice interest and experience.

“The door is wide open,” he said. “We hold the meeting on the third Thursday of every month at 7:30 p.m., and we move the meeting around. The past couple of years, we’ve been moving it around to different hangars here on this airport. There was a time before that we actually used the airport office, and I’d kind of like to see us get back to that. It goes back to the point of trying to attract members. If you’re at the same place every time, I think it’s a little easier.”

Stephen said the EAA Chapter 1040 is based in Cookson due to the core co-ed membership using the Tenkiller Airpark.

“We’ve got one girl - she’s a retired school teacher - who is actually building an airplane right now,” he said. “So it’s not just a guys’ thing. Our wives and girlfriends enjoy flying with us, which isn’t always the case. My wife [Mary Ann] and I just took that [Van’s Aircraft] plane there in the back [of my hangar] to Florida about two weeks ago. We went to a big air show there called Sun ‘n Fun.”

According to the EAA website, the organization was founded in 1953 by a group of airplane aficionados made up mostly of airplane builders. The group also welcomes anyone with an aviation interest, as EAA has been the noted organization for the home built aircraft movement from basic one-place tube-and-fabric airplanes of 50 years ago to the contemporary wide spectrum of aircraft that include plans- and kit-built models.

Stephen has constructed three planes, while two were made using Van’s Aircraft kits.

“That actually is the most successful producer in the world really. In fact, as of the past 10 years probably, Van’s Aircraft has been the biggest producer of small planes probably in the world,” he said. “There are over 7,000 of them flying now, and they’re flying all over world. I have a buddy in Germany that’s got one.”

Get involved

Anyone interested in learning more about the Cookson EAA Chapter 1040 should call him at (918) 457-4705 or fellow member Forrest Wood at (918) 457-5907. People are urged to have their e-mail address handy when calling to be added to the group’s mailing list.