This piece originally ran in the January 2022 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.
Bill Zierdt, EAA 685278, has been involved with EAA as a volunteer since 2000. As a former Army helicopter pilot who has flown a variety of types, Bill began as an announcer during AirVenture when there was anything happening on the field with helicopters.
“The announcers at EAA are generally pretty good, but they didn’t have anybody who knew about the rotary wing,” Bill said. “I elbowed my way in with the guy who runs it. I said, ‘Hey, give me a shot at this.’ He said, ‘Well, do you know anything about helicopters?’ and I said, ‘Oh, yeah.’”
Throughout his time serving in Vietnam, Bill said he had the opportunity to fly just about everything up through the helicopters of the ’70s.
“But primarily [I flew the] the UH-1 series,” Bill said. “I was the test pilot for the Cobras. … I flew both armed and slick helicopters.”
In addition to announcing during the show, Bill also volunteered at Pioneer Airport throughout the summer giving tours.
In 2021, Bill was named the Volunteer of the Year, an award that recognizes members who represent the very definition of volunteerism by giving their time, talents, and knowledge for the betterment of EAA and EAA programs.
Bill said he was surprised when he found out that he had been named.
“I wasn’t aware that I was in the running or whatever it amounts to,” Bill said. “It was a surprise, and it verified what I was doing all those years.”
Like many volunteers, Bill began his involvement because of his interest in aviation, but he has grown to enjoy it so much because of the people he gets to spend time with during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.
“Well, there are 18 of us who are the rotary-wing team up there [in the announcer’s stand], and we get together once a year, spend a week together, and everybody goes home,” Bill said. “They’re really a neat bunch of people, and that’s the key to the whole thing.”
Volunteers make EAA AirVenture Oshkosh — and just about everything else EAA does — possible. This space in EAA Sport Aviation is dedicated to thanking and shining the spotlight on volunteers from the community. Sadly, it cannot capture all of the thousands of volunteers who give so much to the community every year. So, next time you see a volunteer at AirVenture or elsewhere, however they are pitching in to make EAA better, be sure to thank them for it. It’s the least we can do. Do you know a volunteer you’d like to nominate for Volunteer Spotlight? Visit EAA.org/Submissions.