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September 2017

As always, it is hard to see the work of the volunteers during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh go unnoticed with all that they do. EAA member Lance Hooley flew to Oshkosh in his JetEZ for the first time this year and was blown away by all of the happy faces who seemed sincerely willing to help throughout the week.

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017 was my first time flying in; I have been attending since ’92, but I always drove in. The push to get the JetEZ to OSH was a monumental task rife with amazing challenges to overcome. My friends have told me I was wound really tight — no shortage of tension, stress, and worry. The force of focus was quite impressive.

We hit Warbird Island (6 miles southeast of Oshkosh along the western shore of Lake Winnebago) at 1830 Monday as we had planned and did the overhead break landing on Runway 36. We were off to a good start — no holding, no slowing down. It was my hope to park at Boeing Plaza under Proteus, the JetEZ being a canard itself.

My first experience with the volunteers was the level of coordination near the Brown Arch with the plaza guys. They were really trying to get me there even though I had no prior coordination to park at the plaza. I got the sense of sincere effort to make it happen, and I had not even shut down yet. I cannot express how relieved I was at this level of support after the previous two weeks getting the jet ready for OSH.

Once parked, the guys at the Brown Arch said they would go to the plaza crew and see what they could do, and they did! It was not the answer I was hoping for, but they went there and tried. I was left with a promise that they would try to get it arranged the next morning by 0900.

At 0900 the same guys showed up to tell me they can’t put me on the plaza, but asked if I would be willing to park at the Brown Arch. I thought, seriously? The most photographed spot at OSH and you want me there? The problem was my jet is not light, which meant we needed help pushing it over there. Next thing I knew 10 volunteers showed up and we were moving. It was just amazing. No grumbling or complaining, just asking, “Where do you want us” and “What can we push on?” Just a job to be done.

It gets better. Friday morning I had a photo flight to do and was concerned about needing a ground power unit to get the jet started. Then poof — one appeared. It took the guys 11 hours to get it operational and delivered. It was a great big honkin’ thing capable of starting a 747. That was just so cool.

The next problem was getting the jet to a point where I could start it. I needed help at 0545 Friday. I asked the Brown Arch guys if this was possible and after some checking was told they would make it happen. At 0545 Friday, six people showed up to push this animal around with more fuel on board than I arrived with. Once again there were no complaints; they were just focused on getting the job done safely.

Once I returned from the photo mission, more people showed up to push the jet back to its spot. I did not even have to ask for help; they just showed up.

Saturday morning was another photo flight for EAA. Same deal. All kinds of help arrived way before they were even scheduled to be out there. And once again upon the return, I had help pushing the jet back.

I’ve seen the articles on the volunteers in Sport Aviation in the past. Personally, I can’t say enough good things about the volunteers across the board. The people at Homebuilders Headquarters, the ramp crews, ATC, Hal Bryan — all were just amazing.

With all I had at stake with the JetEZ — the airplane, me, the investment, others wanting to build one, possible income stream from building them with The Jet Guys, two airborne photo missions, seven interviews, four ground photo shoots, and a radio interview — the stress and tension for me stayed elevated for the week I was at OSH. To have the volunteers available, it never took more than two minutes to find one, was one place the stress was relieved. And they always seemed to be happy to make what is asked for happen. All they ever wanted was a thank-you.
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