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EAA Volunteers - The Hilleary Family
By Katie Holliday, EAA 1163276
April 11, 2016
EAA would be nowhere without its volunteers. In honor of National Volunteer Month, we are highlighting some of EAA’s amazing volunteers.
Bob Hilleary grew up as what many call a space baby: the child of one of many contractors working with NASA during the race to land on the moon. His father worked for General Dynamics and moved his family to Florida where B-52s and P-51s flew over their home regularly, which further ingrained the love of aviation in Bob’s heart.
It’s no surprise, then, that Bob joined the Air Force at 18 and, like his father, brought his love of aviation into his work (he’s now an A&P). More importantly, he brought it into his home and introduced his daughters to aviation and eventually brought them to AirVenture to volunteer with him on Boeing Plaza with the West Ramp Rats.
“The youngest one (Leslie) actually started coming when she was 11,” he said. Katie, his oldest daughter, said she wasn’t able to help until several years later; she started in 2006, but she’s always been interested in airplanes.
“I grew up around airplanes and always found them fascinating, so volunteering at AirVenture is great because it’s an organization that I care about and really does so many great things for aviation,” she said. “Volunteering brings a great feeling when it is something you care about.”
In addition to the “sense of calm” Katie said volunteering brings, both she and Bob said the people they work with during AirVenture are a big part of why they love volunteering with EAA.
“I really like meeting all of the different people that travel from around the world to be there,” Katie said. “I enjoy how much knowledge everyone there has to share and bring to the event—from the people attending as spectators, volunteers, the crew from the planes, and the staff that works endlessly to make sure AirVenture happens year after year.”
“EAA is my vacation every year. I take vacation from working on airplanes to work on airplanes. People think I’m nuts,” Bob said with a laugh. “(But) it’s more about the people up there than anything else. You know, it’s getting the young adults involved in aviation.”
Katie is a fourth grade teacher and said she makes every effort to bring aviation into her classroom.
“The school I teach at is in the direct flight path for all of the planes landing at the airport a few miles away so they love to see the planes fly overhead and have a ton of questions,” she said. “They also know that my dad works on airplanes, which fascinates them.”
Bob also works with kids in his community to get them interested in aviation, aided in part by a school-funded program that allows high school juniors and seniors to start A&P training allowing them to get their A&P certificate after graduation.
“My neighbor kid, I talked him into doing it so now, for the past three years he’s come up to EAA,” he said.
Bob, Katie, and the rest of the West Ramp Rats also try to get kids involved in aviation in a more hands-on way during AirVenture.
“We try to get them involved in one way or another in our area,” Bob said. “We’ve always said on the West Ramp that our youth are the ones that gotta replace us out. We’re not gonna be around forever, so we have to get the youth involved in aviation, and that’s one of the great things with EAA is getting the young adults, the youth, involved in aviation. They gotta take over our jobs; we’re not gonna be around. Somebody has to take it over.”
To learn more about EAA’s volunteer opportunities, please visit our website.