MARY JONES, EAA 224626
It took some talking to convince my friend Denny to
come with me to Oshkosh’s EAA Chapter 252 pancake
breakfast on Saturday, April 4. He is, after all, a pancake connoisseur, and frankly, the pancakes at most pancake breakfasts just aren’t that good. No offense meant to
the 252 gang, but you just can’t beat homemade, whole
wheat blueberry pancakes, Denny’s specialty.
But pancake breakfasts aren’t just about the pancakes.
They’re about people enjoying the company of others,
raising money for a good cause, creating community
spirit, and/or a host of other reasons. Airplanes and those
little blobs of flour seem to go well together; probably
because it’s relatively easy to make pancakes in a hangar
ersatz kitchen. Besides, Chapter
252 had the use of Pietenpol
guru Bill Rewey’s famous pancake
wheel (shown in photo), which
really turns pancake making into
a production line. Good thing,
‘cause Chapter 252 served some
250 people that morning. I think
we convinced Bill to share his design, and we’ll include it
in an upcoming Shop Talk column.
Chapter 252’s breakfast was a celebration in honor
of the 105th anniversary of Steve Wittman’s birthday,
the gentleman for whom the Oshkosh airport is named.
Wittman Regional Airport had been known as Winnebago
County Airport, and Steve was its manager for 38 years.
Renaming the field in 1972 was definitely a fitting tribute
to a man who offered much to aviation…the homebuilt
Wittman Tailwind and its spring steel gear, Buttercup, and
the great racers—Chief Oshkosh, Bonzo, and Buster.
EAA’s Director of Member Programs Charlie Becker
shared with me that in 1954 Steve was the first person
to have a two-place homebuilt aircraft certificated under
the provisions of CAR 174-3, which meant amateur-built
aircraft that met certain provisions of the regulation
could be certified to carry non-revenue passengers.
Writing in Experimenter at that time, Paul said, “EAA
feels it is a stepping stone for the homebuilders and will
encourage an increasing number of individuals to design
and build two- and four-place aircraft….proving that it
(an airplane) doesn’t have to be factory built to be safe
and an excellent performer….”
Wittman biographer Jim Cunningham flew his Piper
Arrow in from Normal, Illinois, to give a brief talk about
Steve’s life, which many enjoyed. Others in the room
could have shared their own memories of Steve, because
many had spent years in friendship with him. I’m one
who had the honor to spend time with Steve. Dare I say
I even have his signature in my logbook after flying with
him in the O&O Special at Leeward Air Ranch once? What
a thrill that was!
This year’s Chapter 252
breakfast was a busy place…lots
of airplanes flew in or taxied over
from their hangars on the field.
It was a beautiful, sunny early
spring morning with temps in
the low 40s by 9 a.m. Still, Denny
and I admired the stoicism of whoever flew in the neat-looking open-cockpit Starduster Too that was parked on
the ramp…until we learned its owner, Randy Novak,
just taxied it over from his hangar. Syd Cohen flew his
brightly polished Ercoupe in from Wausau, Wisconsin,
and was having a great time talking about how airplanes
fly to the Young Eagles who were going for their rides. I
don’t even know if he got any pancakes.
But, as I said, pancake breakfasts aren’t just about
pancakes…especially at airports. They’re about people
sharing friendship and the camaraderie of a passion
they enjoy, and nowhere was that more evident than in
the smiling faces and the animated conversations that
took place inside the Wittman Terminal and around the
airplanes parked on the ramp that Saturday morning. I’m
sure each of you could write a similar tale about a pancake
breakfast at your airport. The simple things in life truly
often are our greatest treasures.
But pancake breakfasts aren’t
just about the pancakes.