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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.

  

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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh


Volume 9, Number 7 August 2, 2008     

This P-51 says ‘touch me!’
By Frederick A. Johnsen

Barbara Penn of Neenah, Wisconsin, was counted as the 2,000th cockpit visitor to Quicksilver. Photo by Frederick A. Johnsen

Bill Yoak got the notion he could contribute something rare to air shows by letting people touch and sit in his P-51D Mustang fighter, nicknamed Quicksilver. With so many showplane owners understandably trying to keep their rare aircraft unscathed, Bill decided he would do just the opposite, to let visitors appreciate his Mustang in a tactile, close-up way.

At AirVenture 2008 on Thursday, Bill and his display team counted the 2,000th person to sit in his P-51 since he started the hands-on experience at AirVenture last year. He got the notion when a small girl, whom he describes as a "4- or 5-year-old American doll" walked up and touched his Mustang last year. The girl’s father quickly admonished her: "Katie, get your hands off the airplane!," Bill recounted. Yoak quickly invited the little girl to touch the Mustang and sit in the cockpit. "We are coming up on 2,000 Katies," he said shortly before that milestone became a reality. Yoak said this is the most rewarding thing he has ever done, sharing and giving his Mustang experience with others. "I love people," he vouched.

Bill likes to see "what this airplane brings out in people. Wait’ll you see the smiles." Yoak figures he is doing the other warbird owners a favor by letting people touch his airplane. "We’re here to draw fire for them," he joked. Yoak figures any smudges are easily wiped off, and even scratches can be removed. He says when he invites people to touch his P-51, they often become very tentative and gentle, as if touching a newborn child. Signs taped to the Mustang say: "Yes, you may touch me…gently."

Yoak keeps a relaxed, humorous banter going with the line of about 50 people waiting to sit in his P-51. He mixes a bit of good-natured humor with patriotism as he invites visitors to appreciate his warbird as a monument to American veterans.

Visitor number 2,000 as tallied by Yoak’s team turned out to be Barbara Penn, visiting AirVenture 2008 with her three kids from nearby Neenah, Wisconsin. She received special acknowledgment from Yoak, and a special P-51 Mustang patch.

And then it was back to greet visitor number 2,001. Bill Yoak likes to announce: "Anyone caught NOT touching Quicksilver will be ejected from the area!"

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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