An army of volunteers supports AirVenture

EAA AirVenture is the largest aviation event in the United States and would likely not take place without the efforts of thousands of volunteers.

At the fair, you’ll see volunteers in vests doing all sorts of tasks, from parking cars and planes to driving streetcars and making sure the site’s infrastructure, like sidewalks and parking lots, is ready for use.

According to organization spokesman Dick Knapinski, the EAA does not yet have an exact number of volunteers to help at this year’s event (July 22-28) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

“It’s difficult to estimate the exact number at this point because the influx only occurs when people arrive,” said Knapinski. “But last year we had almost 6,000 volunteers who helped before, during and after the week.”

As the air show approaches, many pilots have taken to social media to share weather events as the area has been battered by storms. When it rains in Wisconsin, it really rains, turning plane and car parking lots and roads into nearly impassable swamps.

“We’ve had quite a bit of rain, 7 inches in June alone,” Knapinski said. While that’s a significant amount, it’s not as bad as 2010, when the show was jokingly renamed “Sloshkosh” by some.

“The additional drainage measures after 2010 certainly helped, as there are large open fields used for parking and camping. Some areas are lower than others and therefore muddier,” Knapinski said. “We move the early arrivals to the dry areas as soon as they arrive at that time. Since opening day is still over two weeks away, a lot can happen between now and then to dry out the grounds.”

Knapinski pointed out that there are supplies of wood chips and gravel that are used to fix damp areas.

“We have large tractors to help those who are literally and figuratively stuck,” he said. “EAA AirVenture is a huge public event with countless moving parts. Our volunteers and staff work very hard to make sure everything runs smoothly, but sometimes factors cause things to not go so well. With so many people in one place, chances are if you are on your way somewhere, other people are on their way too. Bring patience.”

As in previous years, the trams will be operated by volunteers this year. The stops and routes are marked on the AirVenture map.

For people who choose Uber to get to and from the site, the four drop-off and pick-up locations that have been in place for four years can continue to be used, Knapinski said.

“They are marked by the black and purple circles on the site map, which is available online, in the app or on the printed site map on site,” he said. “These points are off the North 40 near Friar Tuck’s on South Park Avenue, Foundation Road next 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 is also helpful for everyone to remember the Oshkosh Rules, created by AirVenture founder, the late Paul Poberezny:

  • Pick up your trash, and if you see trash on the ground, please pick it up and put it in a trash can.
  • Please note that smoking is prohibited in the flight area.
  • Do not touch an aircraft unless you have permission from the owner. Be very careful with lanyards, camera equipment, etc. so as not to scratch or damage the aircraft.

Questions about the aircraft on display

Because AirVenture is an outdoor event, it can be difficult to say for sure which aircraft will be on display on site. This can change daily. A common question this year is, “Will B-17s be on display?” There are only a handful of them left in flying condition, and they are expensive to operate, so they don’t always make it to the show.

Knapinski said he had no knowledge of any B-17 bombers visiting the show, except for the EAA. Aluminium Overcast which are exhibited outdoors next to the museum.

He said it’s important to have the right mindset at Oshkosh – that is, to focus on what brings us together, not what drives us apart.

“One reason is that we are all here for the planes and for each other,” said Knapinski. “Especially in these times, we should leave politics and other divisive things at home and enjoy the fun of flying.”