Army of Volunteers Gives AirVenture Its Lift

Last year, nearly 6,000 volunteers assisted before, during, and after the weeklong airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

EAA AirVenture is the largest aviation event in the U.S., and it likely wouldn’t happen at all were it not for the efforts of thousands of volunteers. [FLYING file photo]

EAA AirVenture is the largest aviation event in the U.S. and it likely wouldn't happen at all were it not for the efforts of thousands of volunteers. 

You'll see volunteers at the show wearing vests. They do everything from parking cars and airplanes to driving trams and making sure the infrastructure of the grounds, such as walking paths and parking lots, are ready for use. 

EAA doesn't yet have an exact tally of how many volunteers will be helping out at this year’s event (July 22-28) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, said organization spokesperson Dick Knapinski. 

"It's tough to gauge the exact number right now, because the big influx comes as people arrive,” Knapinski said. “However, last year we had nearly 6,000 volunteers assist before, during, and after the week."

As the airshow approaches, many pilots have taken to social media to discuss contingencies for weather, as the area has been inundated with storms. When it rains in Wisconsin, it really rains, turning aircraft and automobile parking areas and roads into nearly impassable bogs.

"We have had quite a bit of rain, 7 inches in June alone," Knapinski said. While a significant amount, it's not as bad as it was in 2010 when the show was waggishly renamed "Sloshkosh" by some.

"The additional drainage efforts done after 2010 certainly have helped, as there are large open fields used for parking and camping, some areas are lower than others, and therefore mushier," Knapinski said. "We're moving early arrivals into the dry areas as they come in at this time. With two-plus weeks until opening day, a lot can happen to dry the grounds between now and then."

Knapinski noted that there are stockpiles of wood chips and gravel that will be used to shore up soggy locations. 

"We've got large tractors to assist those who find themselves stuck, literally and figuratively," he said. "EAA AirVenture is a massive public event with countless moving parts. Our volunteers and staff work very hard to make sure it runs smoothly, but sometimes factors cause it to run less so. With this many people in one place, chances are that if you're headed someplace, so are other people. Bring your patience along with you."

The trams will be operating this year as they have in year’s past—driven by volunteers. The tram stops and routes are marked on the AirVenture map.

For the people who chose Uber to get to and from the grounds, the four drop-off/pickup locations that have been in place for the past four years will be in use, Knapinski said.

"They are designated by the black-and-purple circles on the site map available online, in the app, or via printed map available on-site,” he said. “Those points are off the North 40 near Friar Tuck's on South Park Avenue; Foundation Road adjacent to Homebuilt Camping; the Camp Scholler West gate on Poberezny Road; and the South 40 gate at the intersection of Knapp Street and County Highway N."

Oshkosh Rules

It also helps if everyone remembers the Oshkosh Rules started by the AirVenture founder, the late Paul Poberezny:

  • Pick up your trash, and if you see trash on the ground, please pick that up too, and put it in a waste receptacle.
  • Respect the no smoking rule on the flight line.
  • Do not touch an airplane unless you have permission from the owner. Be very careful about lanyards, camera gear, etc. to make sure they do not scratch or bump the aircraft.

Questions About Aircraft on Display

Because AirVenture is an outdoor event it can be a challenge to say with certainty what aircraft will be on-site for outdoor display. It can change day to day. A common question this year is "Will there be B-17s on display?" There are just a handful of these left in airworthy condition, and they are expensive to operate, therefore, they don't always make it to the show.

Knapinski said he had not been made aware of any B-17s visiting the show, with the exception of the EAA's Aluminum Overcast that will be parked on outdoor display next to the museum.

He said it's important to have the right frame of mind when you are at Oshkosh—that is, focusing on what brings us together rather than what drives us apart.

"One reason is that we're all here for the airplanes and each other," said Knapinski. "Especially in these times, leave the politics and other dividing stuff at home and come enjoy the fun of flight."

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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