Ron Fritz, VAA Director Emeritus
Airplanes have been in my blood since 1945 when my parents visited the Muskegon County Airport in Michigan. I can still see a black biplane doing touch-and-goes and other small planes tied down across the fence. My first flying lesson was at the Wayland Airport in May of 1957 in a Piper J3. I’d saved up $20.00 from working on the farm I grew up on and that bought me two hours of dual instruction. That was the end of flying for me until I was discharged from the Navy in 1961. I started flying again in the spring of 1962 at Greenville, MI and eventually moved my aviation interests to Wayland again. As my interests were still on old airplanes I purchased a Ryan PT-22 and restored it with the help of Willard Benedict, who would become a very close and dear friend. Although not an instructor, Willy taught me to fly the Ryan. I had flown Aeronca Champions for most of my instruction til then and I checked out in the Ryan. I was still a student pilot and built up a lot of flying time in the Ryan but most of it couldn’t be logged as I was flying with another licensed pilot.
I had joined EAA in 1960 and attended my first Rockford Fly-in in 1963. I’ve never missed an EAA convention since that time. In 1967 I knew it was time to get serious about getting a private license and borrowed a Piper PA22-108 to obtain my license. In the meantime I’d sold the Ryan and bought a 1933 Waco UIC. I received my private license in May 0f 1967, on the anniversary of Charles Lindberg’s flight. I attended my first fly-in in that Waco when my wife Shirley and I attended the 1967 EAA Convention in Rockford.
I had met Jack and Golda Cox at Rockford in 1965 when they stopped by the Ryan while my wife, Shirley, and I were polishing the Ryan. That started a friendship that lasted until Jack’s passing. It was during a phone conversation with Jack in 1971 that he informed me of a proposed gathering of vintage airplane enthusiasts at Hales Corners and I was invited to attend. That was the start of the Vintage Aircraft Association although it was called Antique/Classic at the time. It was not considered a division when it was first organized. That came later. At that first meeting, officers were elected and all present were made the first board of directors. After a year, the group became a division and it was reorganized with new officers and a different board of directors. In 1978 I was invited to attend the A/C board meeting at the Sun-n-Fun fly-in at Lakeland, FL. President J.R. Nielander invited me to join the board as an advisor. In 1980 I stepped up to a director position and then in 1983 I was appointed to the Secretary position when Kelly Viets stepped down. I stepped down from that position in 1987.
I was most pleased when I was honored with an appointment to Director Emeritus at Oshkosh 2004.
During my time on the Board of Directors I also served as Chairman of the History of Flight Pageant and Chairman of Antique/Classic forums until my resignation in 1987.