This piece originally ran in the February 2021 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.
The Vintage Aircraft Association portion of the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh grounds takes up a pretty sizable chunk. Maintaining that chunk requires a lot of volunteer effort, and it begins with Jim Hornby, EAA 234285, and Dennis Lange, EAA 198454, who have been volunteering as part of the grounds crew with Vintage since the 1980s.
Jim and Dennis both live near Oshkosh — Jim in Kaukauna and Dennis in Fond du Lac — which allows them to volunteer in the weeks leading up to AirVenture, getting the grounds ready for airplanes and visitors. Jim, who is chairman of the Vintage Grounds Committee, noted there is a lot of work beforehand that needs to be done.
“We make sure the airplane parking rows are ‘burned,’” Jim said. “We use a non-carryover herbicide to set the lines for the airplanes to line up on. We also number those, so we can keep track. We also maintain and work with the maintenance group and work weekends with them. In the last three years, we’ve been working with the landscaping group. We do a lot of our own mowing and maintenance of landscaping in our area. Then, we do whatever comes up that they need done between conventions. [Dennis and I] are local people that do all the stuff in between that needs to be done. We really enjoy working with [VAA President] Susan [Dusenbury] and all the other chairmen. During the week of AirVenture, I’m actually out on the field. I’ve parked airplanes for years.”
Added Dennis: “Doing the work before and after convention, we enjoy that. That’s something we fell into and we like it. Parking airplanes during the convention and getting the field ready is enjoyable.”
With his long white beard, Jim has become known as “Vintage Santa” and has even started wearing a Santa hat with a Hawaiian shirt during AirVenture. Like many of his fellow volunteers, he comes back to Oshkosh each and every summer to see his volunteer friends more so than the airplanes.
“It’s a family, it’s a friendship,” Jim said. “It’s always the people. And it’s also the chance to see beautiful vintage and classic aircraft. But it’s mostly the people I come back to see. We treat each other as family.”
No disagreement from Dennis.
“I’ve made a lot of friends through the years with the pilots that come in,” Dennis said. “I get to know a lot of them, as well as a lot of the people that come in to volunteer for the week. That’s why I come back, to see the same people once a year.”
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.