Impactful Chapters Do Impactful Things

Airplane Fly-in coming to Marlin

EAA 34 has really turned around over the last 6 or 7 years. We were a struggling  shrinking chapter and are now a growing and diverse chapter that is demonstrating our  love of aviation through our social events, ground school classes, tutoring future aviators,  growing tool crib, supporting builders, attaining and supporting aviation scholars,  running Young Eagles Rally’s, creating a youth program, and community outreach. 

Community outreach and making a difference in the lives of people is what I will focus on in this month’s column. Marlin, Texas was the result of searching for a new and exciting fly out location. I was looking for an airport with a nearby lake, that could support camping and other fun things pilots might like to do on a fly out. As I was searching the state of Texas, via google earth, I noticed the Marlin Airport was very close to New City Lake. In fact, only 280’ from the airport gate and reasonably large with wooded areas for trails and hiking. There were also glaring problems. The airport  didn’t have a couple things that are sorely necessary for fly-ins like bathrooms and areas  to sit and enjoy the airport and lake. Another important missing structure was a pilot  shack. Not ideal but the potential was huge.  

The next step was to contact the city and ask about the airport. I called and spoke with Cedric Davis, City Manager, and he was very excited that someone would ask about their airport. He was very interested in exploring opportunities to enhance the airport and bring positive attention to the community. I reported back to EAA 34 President Jerry Ritchey my impressions of my conversation with Cedric  and it was decided to do an exploratory road trip to Marlin. After a two-hour drive, we  arrived at city hall. There we met the Mayor Carolyn Lofton, and Cedric. While there we  explained who EAA34 is and took a tour of the airport property. What we saw was a  neglected airport that saw little use. It was overgrown with vegetation, T-hangars in need  of repairs, and the runway and ramp soon needing paint and a top-coat. But, the potential  for this airport was huge.  

We spoke with Cedric and the Mayor about the issues we could see and what was needed  to make the airport attractive to aviators. The big obstacle was money. The city simply  didn’t have the funds to do much of anything to help their obscured gem. For  background, the city has lost industry over the years and thus a significant portion of the tax base. It is also a majority minority community and is on the lower end of the income scale.  

Suddenly, Marlin became a multi-pronged  effort for 34. The city wanted to improve  their airport and lake front and EAA 34  wanted to help by advising and putting  experts with airport management in contact  with the city. Additionally, we presented a  PowerPoint on “Aviation as a Careers or a  Hobby” to Marlin High School on October  5th. Jerry Ritchey, AA Captain Charles  Wheeler, DFW Base Chief Pilot, and me drove down and  spent over an hour with the entire student body presenting and  answering questions. This is an important aspect of our  program as we want to offer relationships and mentoring for young people who have no idea how to navigate the aviation maze.

Additionally, we made sure that all the teachers and students knew that our efforts  would culminate with a Pancake & Young Eagles Rally Fly-In to showcase the airport on  November 7th.  

What are some of the things that we have identified and already worked on? EAA34  members and the only airport tenant, John, spent one day in the Texas heat clearing the  segmented circle and killing the vegetation on the runway edges. We have surveyed the  airport for aircraft parking and located where the breakfast and Young Eagles portion will  take place. Aircraft parking is a big issue as we are planning for 40 plus arrivals and the  ramp can only handle 18-20 airplanes. Therefore, we have staked out an area around the  ramp that needs to be made capable of taxiing and parking aircraft. In the extreme case  many more airplanes arrive, we are looking to have an overflow parking area near the end  of the runway for an additional ten airplanes. All this prep takes time and coordination  and we are thus working closely with city manager Cedric Davis on this aspect and many  other aspects of fly-in prep. On our most recent visit, we could see the city is well on the  way to getting the airport ready.  

A timeline has been laid out  for completion of the many  items necessary to have a  safe and memorable Fly-In.  We have some very  interesting airplanes scheduled to visit such as a T-28  Trojan, a PT23 WW2 trainer, a Float Plane or two (why not have a Sea Plane Base!), and  possibly an army asset. The Fly-in is being advertised on North Texas Aviator, Central  Texas Aviators, Grumman Pilots Association, Social Flight, and soon in the local area  news media. We are all learning along the way and thus are keeping in close contact to ensure no major loose ends appear at the last minute.  With a successful first Fly-In, we hope to develop  confidence and experience for future Marlin Airport  events. Additionally, as the fly-in draws attention to  Marlin, it is our hope that other improvements will be  made and that future annual events will be planned and  looked forward to by the area pilots.  

No one does an event like this alone. It takes coordination, initiative, vision, and  teamwork. The City of Marlin & EAA34 are working hard to create a diamond from the  rough. Ultimately, it will be the people of Marlin and the aviation community that will  benefit as we do our part to resurrect this little jewel.

The Marlin Democrat

251 Live Oak St
Marlin, TX 76661
Phone: (254) 883-2554
Fax:(254) 883-6553