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EAA’s Pioneer Airport

By Fred Stadler, EAA 37882, EAA Volunteer

Pioneer Airport is a “hidden treasure” nestled behind the EAA’s AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh.  From May to October, Pioneer Airport delights museum visitors with the sights and sounds of a 1930s era airport.  It was created by Paul Poberezny in 1984 as a living, working, old-time grassroots airport and a way to store EAA’s historic aircraft that couldn’t be displayed in the main museum. 

A group of dedicated volunteers brings this vintage aerodrome to life each year. Volunteers have been crucial to the airport’s operation ever since its beginning, serving in a variety of roles.  They drive the tram that brings visitors to the airport, staff the airport office, conduct tours, dispatch and fly visitors in historic and Young Eagle aircraft, and maintain flight line order and safety.

During the 2014 flight season, which ended in mid-October, 45 Pioneer Airport volunteers contributed 3,400 hours, supporting 800 Young Eagle flights and 330 flights in the EAA’s 1929 Travel Air open-cockpit biplane.  They helped enhance the experience of 10,000 museum visitors who came to the airport.

Some Pioneer Airport volunteers live in or near Oshkosh, others regularly make the trip from surrounding states.  Several husband and wife teams enjoy volunteering together, as well as with their grown children and grandchildren.

Along with staffing the airport, volunteer team members regularly initiate improvements to the facility and operations.  For instance, Dave Lerlie designed and built a better way to handle the paperwork needed for tracking flights.  Don Wokosin developed an improved attachment for the ropes protecting display aircraft.  Dave Secor repaired the airport’s Ford Model T automobiles, made new aircraft wheel chocks, and fixed many of the metal stanchions.

Pioneer Airport always welcomes new volunteers.  A training session is planned for April, 2015, and the regular season will start in May.  If you’d like to join in the fun, be sure to contact airport manager Jim Casper at jcasper@eaa.org.

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