The following is based on several historic letters and articles. Additions and corrections are invited; please send by email to Kathy Sutton.
EAA Chapter 565 has an interesting history. Its roots apparently go back to an organization known as “The Charlotte County Aviation Boosters.” This group put on the very first Charlotte County International Air Show, which is now an annual event known as the Florida International Air Show.
At some point, the “Seminole Air Force” was formed, and began holding regular monthly meetings. The SAF’s first newsletter was published in February 1976. From this document, two important facts are clear: the SAF still did not have a permanent home. More importantly, its membership was interested in starting a new EAA chapter.
Here’s a quote from this newsletter: “Most of us agree we should try to become a recognized EAA Chapter. We will talk about this more in later meetings but it would be almost impossible to be a successful builder or have a successful club and not be an EAA member.”
Today, Chapter 565 is still officially called the Seminole Air Force Chapter 565 Experimental Aircraft Association, Inc. Its membership has grown to about 115, and includes a diverse range of people with one thing in common: a love of aviation.
The chapter’s members include sport, private and commercial pilots as well as retired military and airline pilots. Many members are snowbirds, and there is a strong Canadian contingent. There are also many non-pilot members - those who have an interest in aviation photography or history, or simply enjoy being around airplanes.
For more information on EAA Chapter 565 or how to join, please see the About page on this website.
When first formed, EAA Chapter 565 held its meetings at an administrative building on the airport. It was sometime in the late 1970s, according to historic records, that president Chandler Sarles initiated the acquisition of a permanent home for Chapter 565.
Sarles and other founding members had their eyes on an abandoned concrete bunker at the south end of the airfield. Built in October 1940 on the Punta Gorda air base - home of the 502nd fighter/bomber squadron and the 490th fighter squadron - this 3-sided structure appeared virtually unusable, and it took some imagination to see its potential.
The bunker was used from 1941 to 1945 for sighting-in aircraft machine guns. Its concrete walls were 18 inches thick and filled with sand so bullets from the machine guns would not penetrate them. Wooden beams on the inside prevented rounds from ricocheting.
In 1978, the Chapter received permission to lease the building, and renovations began soon after. Thanks to many hours of volunteer labour, using materials donated by Chapter members, this historic building became the official home for EAA Chapter 565 sometime in 1980.
Chapter records include a letter from the Charlotte County Development Authority, dated June 1981, that outlines the terms of the initial 10-year lease, at a monthly fee of $5. That lease is still in effect today, albeit at a slightly higher cost.
More importantly, thanks to the efforts of current chapter leadership and its members, the building and grounds continue to be maintained and enhanced. Our building and its surroundings provide an inviting location for the Chapter’s social activities and special events as well as its monthly meetings.
Here is a photo of the EAA 565 building in 1980, before our members started renovations.