|Over 100 kids from Explorer Troops all over the country descended on AirVenture to help along the flightline and learn aviation skills in the various workshops and forums.
When Carl and Adele Helmle established the AirVenture Aviation Explorer Base in 1972, they had only two posts involved, but knew that they wanted to help get those few kids involved in aviation.
Today, the base is made up of 14 Aviation Explorer posts from nine different states. This year, the base is hosting 185 campers-considerably more than the usual 125.
"We are busting at the seams," said Katie Clark, base chairman, and Carl and Adele's daughter. "It's just awesome. The craziness never stops."
Affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America's Learning for Life program, Aviation Explorers is a co-ed organization for kids ages 14-20 who are interested in aviation.
Posts work with FBOs, EAA chapters, and EAA Young Eagles to get young post members involved and volunteering alongside aviation field workers. And how-since its beginning, the base has put in approximately 40,000 hours of volunteer service.
"It has become more than just two posts getting together," Clark said. "It's more like, 'Ya'll come over.'"
During AirVenture, the Explorers help out where needed, whether it is out on the flightline parking planes in the North 40 and "North Fond du Lac," keeping guests safe at the P-1 ropes, or working in the base's kitchen.
The kids also help out on the 18/36 taxiways during AirVenture. "They go through an extensive training/safety program to teach them the ropes for several hours before going on the flightline," Clark said. "Those over the age of 18 can choose to go through an air marshal training program as well. It's a great opportunity."
In celebration of the 20th anniversary, the base has planned a carnival for the campers, complete with Minute-To-Win-It games, prizes, and a special dinner. Thanks to the FAA, the campers will also get a unique opportunity to participate in a tower tour during the Night Air Show. And the annual volleyball tournament between the Aviation Explorers and the Civil Air Patrol base is this Thursday night.
Aviation Explorers Base Co-Chairman Robb Szymik attended his first AirVenture at the age of 14, and was hooked. Twenty-eight years later, he's helping other kids pursue their aviation dreams.
"The experience these kids get from being here in Oshkosh will help them do anything they really want to in the field of aviation," Szymik said.
Sixteen-year-old Cole Burgess from Taylorsville, North Carolina, Post No. 850 has already been inspired by his AirVenture experiences over the past two years.
"Before coming to Oshkosh, I wanted to pursue a career in medicine, but now, I want to become a naval flight surgeon," Burgess said. "I think it would be awesome and would incorporate both of my passions, medicine and aviation, into job."
Burgess said his favorite part has been the people he's met and friendships he's made.
"It's so great to be in the same atmosphere as these kinds of people," he said.
With the enthusiastic energy from kids like Cole, and help from supportive organizations such as the National Aviation Exploring Committee, Sporty's, and the Custom Aircraft Group, AirVenture's Aviation Explorer Base hopes to continue to inspire more young people.
"And I want to give them any opportunity I possibly can," Szymik said.