Margy Natalie, Cheryl King, and Natacha Schwarz provide
Vintage aircraft volunteer services at AirVenture 2008.
Cheryl said that they may not see each other throughout the
year, but at AirVenture, they pick up right where they left
off. Photo by Rose Dorcey
Larsh assists Lee Crevier in the Ultralight Barn. Larsh said
that at AirVenture 2007, about 50 volunteers contributed
4,350 hours in about a week. Photo by Rose Dorcey
Casper volunteers because he feels it’s an obligation to
give back to something that provides meaning. "When I
attend other events where I’m not volunteering, I feel
strange, like I need someone to give me an assignment. Photo
by Rose Dorcey
Natalie provides bell ringer services as part of her
volunteer efforts at the Vintage Operations building. Photo
by Rose Dorcey
come from all walks of life, all areas of the country, and are
scattered all over the AirVenture grounds. Their duties are as
varied as the people who perform them, but one thing is certain, EAA
AirVenture Oshkosh would not have earned the title The World’s
Greatest Aviation Celebration without them. We’re talking about
the volunteers, of course, who do it because there isn’t anywhere
else they would rather be.
volunteer because I love Oshkosh," said Margy Natalie of
Herndon, Virginia, a 14-year volunteer in Vintage Operations.
"Volunteering is a way to make it better for everyone else
here. When you become a volunteer, you become part of a
The community Natalie
spoke of helps to explain why volunteers by the thousands give their
time and talent to the event. Volunteers bubble with enthusiasm
about the relationships they create through volunteering, and how
meaningful they are. The work they do is meaningful, too. "Once
you’ve been here a few years, you feel more purpose than just
watching the show," Natalie said.
Moyer, Vintage Aircraft Volunteer Center chairman, who said he works
with the "best volunteers in the world," gets emotional
when he talks about the benevolent people he "works
under." Volunteers, he said, perform professionally together
and work things out to get a job done. "I get gushy about them.
I could almost cry when I think about their efforts—their
spirit," he said.
Moyer knows of the
extensive hours that AirVenture volunteers put in, and how vital
their work is. He speaks with admiration of those who have
volunteered for as many as 30 years. "These volunteers are the
foundation of AirVenture, and I know EAA knows that."
contribute from 40 to 60 hours per week during AirVenture, and some
arrive several weeks in advance, preparing EAA grounds and
equipment. Others volunteer for a day or two, and some stay
afterward to button things down. They meet in different areas of the
country throughout the year for planning. Many receive extensive
training, such as those in Flightline Operations.
Casper, vice chair of EAA Flightline Operations – Oshkosh (a
volunteer position), said about 200 volunteers, as many as 60 on any
given day, park general aviation aircraft, "directing airplanes
just like traffic cops." Flightline Operations volunteers feel
the community Natalie spoke of, too. "We become very close, and
our appreciation party is just like a family get-together,"
He should know.
"I’ve been volunteering since ’75; this is my 33rd
convention as a volunteer," he said. "I have gotten so
much out of EAA compared to what I give, and this is my way to give
back. I feel it’s almost an obligation, and I’ve discovered that
it’s a lot more interesting volunteering than just
It seems no matter
where you go on the AirVenture grounds the volunteers are among the
most passionate people you’ll find here. They love what they do,
the people they work with, and they look forward to seeing each
other every year. None seem to feel as if they’re missing
anything; in fact, volunteering is exactly what makes their
AirVenture experience memorable. Cheryl King, an eight-year
volunteer, says that she hasn’t attended any forums for two years
because, "this is where I want to be, what I want to do."
Meeting people through her volunteer efforts, and sharing hugs and
laughs, is as important as the aviation safety she promotes through
her efforts in Vintage Operations. "We’re from all walks of
life, lawyers, computer programmers, doctors—we have one of the
country’s top cardiologists—and here, we’re all the
same," Cheryl said. "We’re all airplane people."
on the south end of the field are the ultralight volunteers, who
Carla Larsh describes as close-knit and supportive. Larsh has served
for 19 years as a volunteer, most currently as chair of the EAA
Ultralight & Light-Sport Aircraft Council. An ultralight pilot
herself, Larsh said it’s the people the volunteers come back for.
"When my husband died, the outpouring of support from the
ultralight community was just remarkable; I heard from people for
months after he passed away. It’s that kind of caring,
friendships, bonds that are built."
are hardworking men and women who aren’t afraid to get their hands
dirty. They are modest about being the heart and soul of AirVenture
and EAA. Many are pilots, and many are not. Many appreciate the
history of the aircraft, like the volunteers at Warbirds, who are
thrilled to be in the presence of the World War II aircraft their
parents and grandparents flew. Some are veterans themselves, who
share firsthand experiences with visitors who appreciate their
some, volunteering is a family tradition. It’s not uncommon to see
second-generation volunteers—the sons and daughters of moms and
dads who have been volunteering for decades. Still, a need for
volunteers exists in nearly all areas, and it’s likely you’ll be
welcomed in with open arms. Like the thousands of volunteers who
already know, who live in tents and campers for a week, cooking and
eating and working together so that it seems as if EAA AirVenture is
a seamless event, the personal rewards make it worthwhile.
gift in life is to give a gift of love to other people," Moyer
said. "The volunteers’ gift to each other is their work
through their love of aviation."
volunteer list (PDF)