17-Year-Old Volunteer Teaches Metal Work

By John W. Conrad

If you are looking to discover how they bend those fancy curves for vintage aircraft, or if you are plagued with a problem reverse compound curve for your project, stop by the metal workshop inside the Vintage Hangar near the red pylon and meet Maxwell Wenglarz. At 17 years old he is one of the youngest — but most experienced — Vintage teachers and volunteers, having attended and volunteered at AirVenture for the last 12 years.

Maxwell and his family pulled up to the Vintage Hangar Saturday morning following a 3 a.m. departure and a 4.5-hour drive from his home in San Pierre, Indiana. He is in charge of the aircraft parts division of the family sheet metal business. Though they can bend and fabricate almost any complex metal part, they specialize in wing fairings for Waco aircraft. He began coming to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh with his father, David, when he was 5 years old. His volunteer work at that tender age was sweeping up shavings and staying out of trouble.

Somewhere around 2012 his mother, Allison, and his sister, Emily, began coming and made it a family affair. Allison volunteers in the VAA Red Barn, and Emily spends her time helping out in the VAA Red Barn Store.

The family fits in well with the goal of the Vintage Aircraft Association, which is “to encourage and aid the retention and restoration of antique, historical, classical and contemporary aircraft, and to improve aviation safety and education.” At first blush that sounds like they’re all about airplanes, but in reality, it’s all about people, according to Maxwell.

“I love talking to people about old airplanes and how to keep
them flying,” he said. He is one of less than a dozen Vintage Youth Ambassadors
who are charged with reaching out to a younger generation and introducing them
to older aircraft.

“Look out into that field and how many young guys do you see
flying these (vintage) aircraft? I know a select few who are doing it,” Maxwell
said. “Who’s flying them? A bunch of old guys. If we’re going to keep old
airplanes flying we need to attract a bunch of young people to buy them, fix
them, and fly them.”

It comes as no surprise that at 17, which is the minimum age
allowed by the FAA, he already has his private pilot certificate. He soloed
with nine hours in a Piper Warrior and got his ticket soon thereafter. He is
also set to advance in his piloting skills. He owns a 1939 Waco UPF-7 that used
to belong to Continental Motors, another 1940 UPF-7, and a Pietenpol Sky Scout.
When asked his advice for young people who would like to fly, he said, “Don’t
be shy. Go out to the airport and talk to people who have airplanes. Tell them
you’ll wash their airplane for 30 minutes (of flying time).”

Maxwell will be teaching, demonstrating techniques, and answering
questions in the metal workshop of the Vintage Hangar, near the red pylon, from
8 a.m. until noon, every day. His youth, energy, and talent bode a bright
future for vintage aircraft.

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