BENNINGTON >> The satisfaction of building and the freedom of flying an airplane might be more attainable than ever now at the Bennington William H. Morse State Airport.
The Andy Anderson Build Center will have its grand opening on Aug. 13 at 10 a.m. to honor the memory of Andy Anderson and his passion for aviation. The former rented-out space has been converted into a well-equipped workspace with workbenches, metal-working tools and secure storage for ongoing projects, promoted by the Bennington chapter of the Experienced Aviation Association (EAA).
John Likakis from the Bennington Airport Development Corporation and Anderson's son David wish to gather folks with like-minds to work on projects and guide others who wish to learn more about building airplanes. There are currently four available projects — or airplane kits — and two finished projects.
The idea is a work-in-progress, Likakis said, but he hopes to bring one elementary school class to the airport per week. This first step in engaging the community with the center has an educational component. He has been in the process of meeting with local school officials to arrange visits with children.
"We figured we can bring them out and show them that airplanes aren't all that complex," Likakis said. "This is very accessible. Maybe get them interested and who knows, maybe they'll want to be pilots too."
"[Andy Anderson] loved aviation and he had his own business, Avionics Repair (airplane radios), and he just had a lot of really good friends in aviation and the local area, and so on," David Anderson said. "He had a lot of tools so we decided to get a bunch of tools together, get a bunch of people together to teach people how to weld, paint, fabricate, and (do) electrical wiring."
For someone who wants to teach people how to build airplanes, there's no cost associated. But, those who want to build must join the local EAA and a membership of about $20 per month to work in the Build Center. In order to fly the finished product, a pilot license must be obtained.
"Pretty much what we're looking for is a community of people who want to build," Anderson said. "Just do projects. We're getting donations and tools loaned from different people just to try and bring in the community to form a group."
"Everybody involved brings something to it," Likakis said. "Tools. Know-how. Enthusiasm."
Likakis and Anderson live a mile from the airport and are willing to guide builders to keep up their motivation. Projects sometimes take a full year and could require more than one person to help build.
In the press release announcing the grand opening, chapter president Leik Myrabo said, "We see this as an excellent way to get both adults and children involved in airplanes and aviation. We encourage everyone to stop by, chat, and see just how easy it is to get involved."
Anderson said it can become an expensive passion, but that a "chunk of money can take you a long way."
He added that there used to be a shortage of students, but now there's a shortage of pilot instructors in the area. His hope is to teach people and train more pilot instructors.
The grand opening coincides with the Battle Day Wing 'n' Wheels Fly-in event, along with antique and homebuilt aircrafts and classic cars and exotic motorcycles that will be on display.
A French toast breakfast will begin at 8 a.m. for a small donation and the grand opening will start at 10 a.m. Admission is free. Green Mountain Express shuttles will be running from downtown to Camelot Village, the airport and the Battle Monument.
The William H. Morse State Airport offers a variety of events and programs including skydiving.
For inquiries about learning to build kit airplanes, contact Myrabo at 802-989-2874 or the airport at 802-442-5503.
— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.