Unedited copy as submitted for the July 24, 2002 issue of Airventure Today.
Around the Field
by Jack Hodgson

Favorite North Forty Parking Spots

When you and your plane arrive at EAA AirVenture the flag people direct you to park in the next available spot in the North Forty. But every year a few trailblazers decline this offer and taxi off to the far reaches of the field. What's the story with that?

On the far side of the runway, abeam the runway 9 numbers, a group of pilots meet up each year in their favorite parking place.

"Row 56, although they added a 5 in front this year and made it 556."

They fly to EAA AirVenture from Arkansas and Oklahoma, and on the back of their "GAC" sign they write "Row 56". "The flag people are really cooperative once they realize what you want."

The three planes in row 56 this year carried six guys who have a variety of EAA AirVenture experiences.

Lonnie Halcomb and George Birdsong came in Lonnie's red and white 1963 Mooney. This is Lonnie's 4th time to the fly-in and it's George's first. George jokingly complains that he would have come sooner but it's a long trip in his powered parachute.

The 1961 Commanche brought John Forister and Lynn Soltharp. This is John's second time to the fly-in and Lynn has been coming since 1981.

And last but not least, Paul Shireman's 1967 Skyhawk carried him and Sam Douley. This is Sam's fifth year and Paul has been coming for 20 years.

All six agree that their preferred parking location is superior due to its closeness to the stores north of the field as well as the excellent view of the activity on runway 9-27.

"It's pretty high here. We can see 3 of the 4 runways. We can see the pattern. It's a good vantage point. Plus the bus stops nearby, and it's an easy walk to the showers, and the stores and restaurants." These are some of the reasons that Howard Price gives for why his group returns each year to their parking spaces along the fence at the west edge of the field.

They discovered the spot's benefits by accident when they arrived one year and the North Forty was nearly full. The flag people squeezed them into these oddball spaces along the fence, and they were hooked.

Howard and Tina Price come to EAA AirVenture in their F-33A Bonanza from Terrell Texas, near Dallas. They split the flying equally between them during the trip.

Terry Huffine first came to EAA AirVenture seven years ago at Howard's invitation. He flies in his "Duke", with his wife Sandie, from Sarasota, Florida. Sandie points out that each year, the first thing Terry does after arriving at the fly-in, is to say, "Well only 365 days until the next AirVenture." He counts down the days all year long.

Howard's brother Dave, and his wife Gayle, arrive in a 1973 Baron. He's been coming to the fly-in for about eight years.

David's most vivid memory of EAA AirVenture was the talk given by General Robin Olds a few years back. The General's description of his experiences as a P-51 pilot struck David as a tremendous example of heroism and patriotism. "He has an amazing and dynamic personality. He's the genuine article."

Another trailblazer in the far reaches of the North Forty is Ron Dornink. Ron's been parking out here for 10 years. He also likes the ready access to the stores and restaurants.

Ron's been flying for 47 years, and coming to Oshkosh for 25. He owns a grass strip in Freeport, Illinois.

Ron's name seemed familiar so we checked back and discovered that in a 1998 edition of this column we met Al Plapp who had some nice things to say about Ron.

"[When I was a kid] I worked for Ron Dornink at his airport in Illinois. I painted fences, and shoveled, err, stuff, in exchange for flying lessons. It's called Ronald K. Dornink Airport, but we called it Dornink International. I stop back there as often as I can. It's still a grass strip.

"Someone has taken all the old first solo shirt tails and stitched them together into a quilt that is now on display. There must be 80 to 100 shirttails. Mine is there.

"I think he's still got a couple of kids working for him, learning to fly."

This year at AirVenture Ron has two of his grandsons with him.

Sam Scaman is 14, and lives in Lakeworth, Colorado. This is his first time to AirVenture. "I'm looking forward to the whole thing. It's really big. I want to see the old airplanes and the new ones."

Erik Dornink is also 14, and this is his 5th AirVenture. He particularly likes the Warbirds.

Ron is teaching both of them to fly.

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