Shelter from the storm

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Members of the Experimental Aviation Association do their best to look out for each other in times of distress. An example of this took place Nov. 7, 2020, when a Piper Cherokee pulled up in front of the EAA Chapter 534 hangar at the Leesburg International Airport (KLEE) in Florida.

On this particular day there was a lot of aircraft building activity going on in the hangar when folks suddenly became aware of a loud aircraft engine noise. Then a plane nobody recognized taxied up to the front of the hangar door.

The engine shut down and three people climbed out of the pretty little Cherokee and asked for one of the chapter members, Mark Banus, our chapter treasurer. It so happened Mark was in the hangar working on building one of the chapter’s planes, a Murphy Rebel. 

The pilot, Jon Sokel, and his parents Ed and Meredith introduced themselves to Mark and some of the others in the hangar.

Jon had his flying club plane for two weeks while working for the Navy in Key West, Florida. All of a sudden Hurricane Eta was threatening to hit southern Florida and he needed shelter from the storm. 

The Cherokee is the only plane owned by his 10-member flying club in Chesapeake, Virginia, and Jon and his fellow members were getting nervous about having the plane in the hurricane’s path with nothing but tie-downs available to them at the Key West Airport (KEYW). So how do they get this plane to a safe place out of the storm’s path?

It just so happens that one of the flying club members up north is a friend of Mark Banus and knew he was now living in Florida and had a hangar at KLEE that was empty. Mark told him, “no problem, have Jon fly it up and he can tuck the Cherokee in his hangar until the hurricane blows by.”

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