Interested in knowing about the early history of the Short Wing Piper Club and how it came to be? Read on for details of how the Club started and some highlights of the Club’s first 25 years.
Thanks to Eleanor Mills for the information included in this recap of the Short Wing Piper Club’s Early History. This information on the first 25 years of the Club’s history was gathered from “The Short Wing Piper Club: 25 Years and counting,” an article written by Eleanor Mills for the Short Wing Piper Club Commemorative History book. The book was published by Turner Publishing Company in 2006. The book is out of print but may be found for purchase on Amazon. Portions of the book can be viewed on-line if you click HERE.
The Short Wing Piper Club began as the result of a chance meeting of four Tri-Pacer owners on a Sunday afternoon in the fall of 1978, appropriately enough, at an airport.
A time of hangar flying and tire kicking led to the eventual establishment of a club with international membership. Now, nearly 39 years later, The Short Wing Piper Club boasts over 1,000 members who are kept in close contact by the Club’s quarterly magazine, The Short Wing Piper News, the Club’s website and the Forums and e-mail lists that go along with it, an active Facebook page and the annual SWPC Convention.
But let’s get back to 1978 – Four Tri-Pacer owners – Bob Fuller, Mike Peters, Harold Chadwick and Al Nixon – met by chance at Van Sant Airport and started talking airplanes. The question came up as to if there was a club type organization that specialized in helping Tri-Pacer owners. Upon concluding there wasn’t such a club, the four set out to form a club for Tri-Pacer owners. According to founding member, Al Nixon, the club’s purpose “was to provide a format for Tri-Pacer owners to pool their knowledge about problems and solutions relating to operating their planes. The format was to take the form of a newsletter. Fly-ins and other social activities were considered a secondary mission of that club.
Bob Fuller sent out the first letter to potential members on December 5, 1978 in which he referred to the group as the Tri-Pacer Owners Group. By January of 1980 the club had 92 paid memberships including members from Canada, England, Ireland and Mexico.
In march of 1980, the Tri-Pacer Owners Group’s newsletter included a mention of another Tri-Pacer club, the Kansas City Tri-Pacer Association, a group started under the direction of Steve Marsh. Steve organized the Kansas City area group in 1978, the same year that Bob Fuller organized the Tri-Pacer Owners Club, T-POC. The Kansas City Tri-Pacer Association merged with the Tri-Pacer Owners Club in 1981.
Here are some highlights of our history since that 1981 merger and up through 2005:
- The magazine name sent to Tri-Pacer Owner Club members started using the title The Short Wing Piper News on the August-September 1982 issue.
- 1982 marks the beginnings of the Club’s annual convention. Held at Oshkosh’s annual fly-in, Tri-Pacer Owner Club members gathered for their first annual meeting.
- 1983 marks the Club’s first “true” annual convention held independently of other conventions. Held in Minden, Nebraska, the event drew 71 Short Wings and 222 people.
- Aircraft Awards were first given at the 1983 Convention.
- In 1984 the club changed its name to Short Wing Piper Club, Inc.
- The SWPC’s logo was adopted and first appeared in the November-December 1984 issue of the Short Wing Piper News.
- In 1986 The SWP News began its present tradition of featuring the top airplane, National Champion, of the convention on the cover of issue following the convention.
- In 1987, the SWPC inducts seven members into the SWPC Honor Roll – Robert A. Fuller, Steve Marsh, Edwin F. Wach, Kurt Schneider, Larry D. Smith, Lonnie McLaughlin and George Fruehauf.
- By 1988 the SWPC had 24 regional chapters.
- The November-December 1988 issue of the Short Wing Piper News was the 10th anniversary issue, marked by the first full-color cover photo.
- In 1990, the Short Wing Piper News continued with full-color cover photos. Also added the issue date to the spine of the magazine and a strip of color to remind readers which issue was which.
- In 1990 the Club has 2,500 members.
- The club has 27 regional chapters on the roster in 1992.
- Likely the most well-known and most winning Short Wing Piper in the world, Miss Pearl, owned by Frank Sperandeo, makes her debut on the cover of the January-February 1995 issue of the Short Wing Piper News.
- In 1995, the SWPC loses Ed Wach, early SWP News editor and a member who many called “the heart and soul” of the club.
- This same year, two students, Shaun Gegan and Jason Burkhart are the first recipients of the Ed Wach Memorial Scholarship given out by the Short Wing Piper Education Foundation.
- 1996 marks the beginning of the SWPC’s presence on the internet with the Club’s first website, ShortWingPiperClub.org.
- 1997 membership has grown to over 3,000 members in 24 countries. We now have 38 chapters, including chapters in Canada, Ireland and New Zealand.
- The annual convention leaves the lower 48 and takes place in Anchorage, Alaska in 2001.
- By late 2001, Tips and Techniques CDs, compiled by Cliff VanVleet from articles in the Short Wing Piper News, became available.
- Tips and Techniques books are available for sale from our Online Store in 2002.
- 40 regional chapters are on the roster in 2002.
- The first Pacific Islands fly-in was announced for March of 2003.
- Member Peter Polen works with the Piper Aviation Museum to establish and install a Short Wing Piper Club display which features Honor Roll recipients in 2004.
- In 2005 the SWPC has 41 chapters in the United States and Canada plus a Ireland representative.
Today the Short Wing Piper Club continues to thrive and remains true to the objectives that were established early on. What does the future hold for the Short Wing Piper Club? Without a doubt, the future holds even more Flying, Fellowship and Fun with our wonderful Short Wing Pipers and our Short Wing Piper Club Family!