would not be what it is today without the amazing workers and volunteers
who have shared in the spirit of aviation over the years. Many of these
people catch wind of the unique atmosphere that Oshkosh gives its
attendees that they continue giving service to the event.
The AirVenture workers and volunteers
combine the aviation adventure with their various talents, skills, and
interests to be part of the "World's Greatest Aviation
Volunteer positions range from greeters to
maintenance, AirVenture Museum to interpreters. More information is
available about volunteering during AirVenture at http://www.airventure.org/volunteers/.
There are also positions available to work during AirVenture on fuel
trucks, security, receptionist, clerks, and more at www.eaa.org/careers/
under the AirVenture 2009 heading.
The following is a glimpse into one
worker's long history at EAA AirVenture:
Forty years ago in the summer of 1969, the
papers were filled with stories of a possible move of the EAA headquarters
and convention from Rockford, IL, to Oshkosh, WI. As a 30-year-old science
teacher who would incorporate aerospace activities into the curriculum, I
was intrigued by these stories.
As history goes, the move did occur and
with a few weeks before the first convention in Oshkosh, I went down to
Basler Flight Service. Warren and Pat Basler's service is one of the
outlets for the aircraft to receive fuel. The couple hired me on spot and
off to work I went.
The first convention was not big on scale
terms, but left me with lasting memories of a wonderful time. For that
first convention and the years following, I could be found somewhere out
in front of the tower, fueling airplanes including homebuilts, warbirds,
and antiques. These convention years were filled with excitement and
heartfelt memories along with meeting wonderful and historical people.
Sometimes, there would be excitement and
danger mixed together. One day Red, a test pilot for Zenair, came by
pushing a Cricket, the world's smallest, two-engine ultralight. I stepped
out of my truck and said, "Hey you cheapskate, you haven't bought any
gas for awhile." He responded with something smart and away he went
flying, even though things didn't sound right. Suddenly Red veered left,
heading toward my truck and crash landed right behind me. I rushed over to
where Red had opened the cockpit and was looking good. I said, "Red
are you okay?" and he said, "I should have bought some
One year, I took some students along to
help fuel the airplanes. As we sat down along the flight line for lunch,
Chuck Yeager came and sat down. Yeager is known for becoming the first
pilot in 1947 to travel faster than sound. It came apparent that I forgot
to teach my students who he was when one of them shouted, "Who is
Chuck Yeager?" Having my students along was a great learning
experience for us all.
I have been fortunate over the years to
have met wonderful people, including those who have left a lasting
impression on the aviation world: Robin Olds, a triple ace from WWII and
Vietnam; Adolf Galland, German ace and one of the 27 recipients of the
German Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross; and Buzz Aldrin and Neil
Armstrong, the first two people to set foot on the moon. One of the most
inspiring stories I heard was from George Henry Gay Jr., a TBD Devastator
pilot in the U.S. Navy Torpedo Squadron 8 during WWII. His stories of the
battle surrounding him on the day in the Battle of Midway are priceless
tales that I have taken back to my classroom to share with my students,
along with countless other pieces of oral history.
A week or so ago, I was driving my horse
and carriage during a community event when a former student and his family
climbed abroad. He reminded me of the time I had taken him to the air show
and what a wonderful time we had. By coincidence, as we continued talking,
an older man with his WWII hat came up and said, "Mr. Cavanaugh, you
took me to the air show a few years ago and I had such a wonderful time, I
want to say thank you again."
It's moments like these that make my
AirVenture experience so worthwhile: knowing that I am able to enrich the
lives of others, as I do so for myself at AirVenture. That's what it's all
I have been fortunate to have watched over
all these years to see what the convention has grown in to today: a place
of true aviation spirit, memories, and camaraderie. I'm not sure if I'll
be on the field with a fuel truck this year, as I hope I do, but if that
doesn't happen, I'll be back at AeroShell Square.
I wouldn't trade the time spent as a worker
for anything. However, after 40 years of riding the fuel truck, I'm
hanging up my red Snap-On Suspenders after August 2 in hopes that in the
following years I will come to AirVenture as a guest.
Thanks to all my friends, past, present and
future - I'll see you around.
- Rodger Cavanaugh
40 years, Oshkosh EAA