Few will get to see the underling organization that works
year round at making the show run smoothly, from the time they enter
Airventure until they leave. There are literally thousands of people
involved in the day to day operations of preparing for the show.
But there is also a group of individuals that the general
public does see on a day to day basis and that is the volunteers. Since
it's inception in the early 80's the Ultralight and Light Sport Aircraft
area of Airventure has been one of the fastest growing areas of the show.
This has necessitated the moving of the area several times to it's present
location at the south end of the airshow nearly a mile from the main
This growth and expanded interest has also meant the need
for more and more volunteers to fill the new ventures taken on by the
executives of the "down on the farm" ultralight and light sport aircraft
One of the first expansions after the acquisition of a
permanent location was the "John Moody" camp ground which is named after
what many consider to be the father of ultralight aviation John Moody.
The campground is located on the southerly boundary of
the area and is run by a husband and wife team that give up 10 days of
their summer to organize and run the campground.
The next group of volunteers one is likely to come in
contact with are the women who operate from the "Ultralight Barn." This is
the heart of the ultralight and light sport aircraft operation.
These volunteers begin work before anyone else on the
farm. When pilots and volunteers show up for their six a.m. briefings the
coffee is already on and brewing and the donuts are ready.
From six a.m. until closing they answer questions, direct
enquires, sell merchandise, and act as ambassadors for the sport.
know the amazing part about it - these women (I don't recall seeing any
men) do it in such a way that no matter how stupid your question seems, or
how busy they are, the treatment you receive from them is as if you were
the most important person at the convention!
Whether you are a well know "legend in your own mind," or
some guy that's waiting for his wife to get out of the Bingo Hall - their
focus and attention is YOU- no strings attached, no hand out for money,
just friendly, knowledgeable, understanding, individuals there to help you
Pilots wishing to fly at the show during the allotted
times will then meet the volunteers who give the flight briefing. This
includes Doppler weather radar, the route to fly, how high to fly, what to
do incase of an emergency, how to enter and leave the pattern and what the
As the briefing is going on Frank Beagle will usually be
heard warming up his voice on the announcers stand. Frank and Mark will
start each day just as the sun comes up and other than a break during the
airshow will be on the stand as the sun sets.
The person responsible for finding the volunteers for the
flight line and delegating when and where they will be used falls to Deb
Deb has been working with EAA as a volunteer for over ten years now
and for the last two years has been the Ultralight and Light Aircraft
During the operations of the Ultralight and Light
Aircraft flight line Deb will have a minimum of eight volunteers, and eight
to twelve Civil Air Patrol volunteers working the line.
From the volunteers at the "Shack" centrally located on
the edge of the runway younger volunteers like Deb's daughter Allison get
their start by answering questions from spectators.
(Volunteers under 16 are not
permitted to work the flight line, but are permitted in the "Shack.")
Others include "the spotters" for flight services who
take up their perches in the tower. They are their every day of the show
from sun up till sun down. Their job is to count the number of take offs
and landings and monitor traffic in the area and on the ground.
They are the eyes and ears of flight operations, from
their loft high above the crowd they are continually scanning the air and
ground for problems, and relaying necessary information to ground
personnel, and the flag man.
They also operate the flag system which gives the green
flag for flying, red flag for runway closed and up and down yellow arrow
flags for the beginning and end of flying sessions.
When you consider that on several days there were more
take offs and landings done than at one of the busiest airports in the
world you can understand the importance their role plays in the safe
operation of the ultralight and light sport plane area.
But pilots can't get their planes into the air without
fuel. For safety a fuel depot has been added to the ultralight and light
sport section of Airventure.
Here pilots can either purchase fuel or leave
their fuel can there. All fueling is done in a restricted and controlled
area, again manned by volunteers.
Once fueled pilots are then directed to the staging area
where the flag man ensures that no one is approaching to land, and that any
departing craft have cleared the runway, and then stages them for take off.
He will also direct pilots to abort landings or do go arounds when traffic
is backed up or an emergency exists.
The Civil Air Patrol works the area in squadrons,
rotating in and out every two hours or so from other areas of the show.
They man the flight line gates, direct taxiing aircraft from point A to B
in the staging area. They also chaperone media people keeping a watchful
eye out for them for aircraft and dangerous situations.
The CAPS are a group of young men and women who have
undergone special training to aid in events such as Airventure.
at Airventure this year was from over forty two areas of the U.S. including
Hawaii and Porto Rico. Some of their training includes how to direct
traffic, dealing with incursions onto the runway and crowd control. The
CAPS begin their work at six a.m. and work through till 8 o'clock at night.
According to Deb some fifty to sixty people volunteer
their time each year in this section. Some will volunteer for the whole
week, others for a couple of days, while others drop in for an hour here
and there during the busier times.
"These people are lawyers, teachers, nurses, construction
workers, dishwashers, cooks." No special experience is necessary, and you
can be male or female of any nationality or from any country.
So if you have some time to spare next year at Airventure
drop in to the "Barn" or the "Shack" and sign up to spend some time helping
run the lighter side of the largest airshow in the world.