The Baby Ace: Catalyst for Learn Build Fly
When EAA founder Paul Poberezney passed away in 2013, he had a home-build aircraft still in process. Wausau area EAA Chapter 640 member Kurt Mehre, a friend of Paul's, was asked to help complete the project. That project was the Mechanic’s Illustrated Baby Ace replica.
EAA Chapter 640 and a group of people worked on the project over the winter and spring, finishing it just in time for Airventure 2014.
As work progressed we had a group of teens showing up week after week, some EAA members, some not.
This changed the focus of the group from simply finishing the plane to educating young people on aircraft construction and engineering.
The fall of 2014 found us with time on our hands and a donated set of Wittman Buttercup plans. Jim Clemmet of Baraboo WI had melded a Buttercup and a Tailwind together creating a very nice flying plane he called the Butterburger.
Dave Conrad, a friend of Jim’s acquired the list of modifications, changed a few things and came up with this plane known as a Wittman Legacy.
We formed a non-profit, 501(c)3 group named Learn Build Fly. The goal was to continue educating young people and anyone else interested in aircraft construction.
We had our first meetings in the lobby of the Wasuau Downtown Airport Tuesday evenings. Full size plans were drawn up and a rib building jig was constructed.
Wausau hangar owner Rick Coe offered heated hangar space to weld and glue the parts together, the group was off to a good start with 20-25 attending weekly.
C-Tech Manufacturing gave us a copy of Autodesk Inventor to solid-model the needed parts and make prints.
Our group was promoted mostly through social media and public awareness grew, donating to the group was attractive do to the activity level and 501(c)3 status.
Major donations came in and it was decided to build a 66' X 80’ heated hangar with areas for wood working, metal fabrication and computer aided design. Less than three years after the opening of our first hangar, we broke ground for a sister hanger next door, allowing much needed space for build nights, classes and meetings, and clean work like composite molding and fiber covering.
In 2018, the first LBF Education Center Hangar was built at the Wausau Downtown Airport through local fundraising and volunteer efforts. Further donations provided CNC equipment (mill, lathe, plasma table, and router) as well as welders, engineering computers, CAD software, 3D printers, an Epilog laser, woodworking machines, and small engines equipment.
In 2022, construction began on a second educational hangar, allowing for expanded collaboration with local groups like EAA Chapter 640, Wausau Downtown Airport, area schools, and Wausau RC Sports.
A Board of Directors and a Youth Board lead LBF. Over the last year, participation during Tuesday “Build Nights” averaged over 40 people per night. Over the last six months, participation increased to average over 56 people per night, with a high of 74 attendees.
Power in Numbers