|In Vintage Parking, keeping the planes moving and the people safe is a family affair.
By Jack Hodgson
Some of the most vibrant neighborhoods at AirVenture are the many volunteer groups that take care of all the infrastructure and services needed to make the fly-in work. One of these is vintage aircraft parking and safety.
Michael "Denver" Kosta and Kathy McGurran are two of the eight chairmen that manage the more than 200 volunteers it takes to keep this part of the fly-in moving efficiently and safely.
All these volunteers are spread out among shifts throughout the week.
"On a shift we might have upwards of 30 to 45 people," Michael said.
Vintage Camping and Parking takes up a significant portion of the AirVenture flightline-almost 90 rows from the Red Barn all the way down to Ultralights.
Preparations are ongoing throughout the year.
"We have a chairman who's responsible for all the grounds in this part of the field," Kathy said. "He takes care of preparations throughout the year. He's from Minnesota, so he comes over several times a year."
They need to stay on top of the preparations because EAA members start arriving long before the official start of the fly-in.
"Some come as early as June," Kathy said. "They tie down their airplane, and then drive back home, and then come back for convention."
Many of the volunteers return year after year. To keep them coming back the group leaders work hard to maintain a family atmosphere, so that the long, hot days are paid off by being part of a fun, friendly group.
"We reel them in, and keep 'em," Kathy chuckled. "But we want to make it fun for them. We try and have a good time down here."
They use an area of picnic tables in front of their operations building as a gathering place. Group meals and other socializing helps keep this neighborhood strong. Most every night during the fly-in they gather for a group meal.
"We're all family," Michael said, "and that's what makes it work so well. We all like each other, we know each other. We know how we work together. And we work together very well. This is a very well-oiled machine here. And it's the envy of other places on the field because we do things so well."
And they not only work and eat together; many of them live together. A lot of the volunteers pitch their tents together in a grove of trees at the west edge of the Vintage Camping area.
The week is capped with a volunteer appreciation party at the end of the fly-in.
"We give out little ignominious awards for silly things that happen during the week," Kathy said.
Both Michael and Kathy are long-time, dedicated AirVenture volunteers. Both started helping out at the fly-in 26 years ago. Each began on the very first day they came to the convention.
And they're not even the volunteers who have been with this group the longest.
"Some have been volunteering since Rockford," Michael said.
One special task this group got this year was the arrival of all the Piper Cubs.
Did they have to do any special preparations for the Cubs' arrivals?
"Yeah, we had to get up at 5:30 in the morning to be out here at 6:30 in the morning," Michael joked. "Really it was nothing special, because it was just more of what we do. And it worked very well."
Preparing for the Cubs, he said, was "part of what we did when we were here in March, we were laying out where the Cubs were going to go, how we were going to park them, what went where. And that's what we do before we come here, so we're not scrambling to make plans."
Michael and Kathy obviously are very proud of their corner of Wittman Field.
"This is the best place on the field," he said. "We have all the cool airplanes. And now we have over 125 J-3 Cubs."