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Flying success for chili fundraiser

By Miriam Orr

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is home to over 170,000 individuals who together pursue the spirited passion, exhilaration, and adventure of flight. The organization began in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where the world's biggest civilian airshow welcomes over 10,000 planes and pilots and crowds numbering almost 600,000 people.

Maple Lake, Buffalo, and Winsted are all local airports where Chapter 878 welcomes pilots to maintenance, fly, and converse on the art of flight. Most members are west of the Minneapolis area and encompass the "lake country," flying in and out of local airports.

Wayne Flury is one such member of Chapter 878. He was a founding member of the chapter in 1986, and attends meetings in Buffalo and Maple Lake regularly. Flury learned to fly in college, and graduated from South Dakota State University, and went on to serve in the U.S. Airforce as a maintenance officer.

"Aviation is a wonderful hobby, and it's something that has been related to what I've done my entire life," Flury commented. "It gives you a different perspective of the planet, and it is a great community of people to create contacts and travel."

Among other things, Flury has his hand in chili feed fundraisers, called "Fly-in or Drive-ins," that welcome the community of both drivers and flyers to participate in a fundraiser for Chapter 878 – participants can either arrive by road, or by air.

Maple Lake has hosted the event for 28 years, and it has been a massive success. This year, however, was the first year that Buffalo's Municipal Airport put on the event out of the West Metro Aviation hangar, which is owned and operated by pilot Michael Wiskus, who just so happens to be a Lucas Oil Pitts Airshow Pilot. He has owned the Buffalo hangar since 2005.

Wiskus has been show piloting for 20+ years, but has been a flight enthusiast since he was six years old; when a plane touched down in his family farm's north pasture. From there, he knew he was going to fly, and worked his way into the business from the age of 13, onward.

As of 2017, Wiskus has been flying 24 shows a year in the Canadian and U.S. areas.

"I've never not known to fly," Wiskus stated, "It's always been a part of me, and it always will be."

Chapter 878 is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and their annual "Fly-in or Drive-in" chili feed's raise money for a variety of different areas. This year's funds were in hopes of sponsoring scholarships for young individuals interested in flight in order to pay for classes and vocational training.

"The goal is part of an objective to get the youth involved with flying again," Flury stated, "and as a way to bring awareness and knowledge to the fact that aviation is a vocational alternative, and is desperately needed in today's economy."

John Britz, from Buckman, Minnesota, was one of the pilots who flew in for the day's chili feed. He pilots a glorious red and gold Piper Cherokee 160, and had flown in from the Mille Lacs, Minnesota area where he and his passenger had had breakfast earlier that morning. He has been piloting since 1987, and stated that his 1+ hour trip by car had only taken 30 minutes by air from Mille Lacs.

At one point during the fundraiser, a total of 17 planes were parked at the airstrip, as pilots and passengers came from across the area to participate in raising proceeds for the fundraiser and listen to live music put on by the Dassel-Cokato localists known as "Cowboys and Sneakers."

The event hosted approximately 25 airplanes, and served almost 150 people. Wayne stated that the event was a success for their first year, and that they hoped next year's annual fundraiser would be just as big of a success as 2018's.



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