Enthusiastic Views of EAA AirVenture Past and Present.
Bob Muzik is sitting on his folding stool beside the ultralight runway eating his dinner of cheese and crackers. He's been coming to AirVenture, from his home in Lowry, Minnesota, for ten years. He flies his 1959 Skyhawk out of Glenwood Municipal Airport. This year Bob is camping in the South 40.
Bob got started flying in ultralights and still loves to watch the comings and goings here at AirVenture . He comes back year after year because, "there's always something new. A new design. A new aircraft. It's fun to see them.
"The airshow is great. Sean Tucker is great. It's kinda unbelievable, what can you say about that? It's amazing that his plane holds together."
With Bob this year is his friend Ed Jungst. Ed is an RV builder. He's built an RV-6 and an RV-8. Ed and Bob do a lot of flying in the RV-8. They regularly take it to local fly-ins and pancake breakfasts. They would have brought the RV to AirVenture but "the Skyhawk we can pack to the hilt."
Wayne Pearson and his family have been coming to the EAA fly-in for over 30 years. "I started coming when it was in Rockford," he says.
On this particular evening he and his wife Evelyn are sitting on their folding chairs watching the ultralights. One of their sons, who arrives tomorrow, is a member of the EAA Ultralight Chapter in the Minneapolis area.
Evelyn proudly points out that Wayne was a B-17 tailgunner in WWII. "That's where he learned to love airplanes," she says.
"I learned to fly," says Wayne, "in 1948 in a Piper Cub."
Back in the 60s & 70s Wayne was a member of an EAA Chapter in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and although the demands of family and career pulled him away from flying and Chapter involvement, he kept coming to the annual fly-in. Over the years he's passed on his love of planes to his wife and three kids. "Once you get it in your blood you never lose it," Evelyn says.
These days the Pearsons drive to AirVenture for a few days each summer from their home in Crystal Falls, Michigan. They stay at the dorms in Ripon. Wayne remembers the early fly-ins as having "not so many planes. We used to be able to park right by the runways and watch."
Over the years Evelyn was active as a volunteer at the fly-in. She would work Classic registration and sometimes "haul sandwiches out to the volunteers."
The Laguna family fly out of Rio Linda airport near Pleasant Grove, California. They arrived to AirVenture 2002 a day later than planned since, as they were departing, their Navion broke a throttle cable in the run-up area of their home airport. Fortunately it was repaired in less than a day, and they were on their way.
Art Laguna is a pilot for the Army National Guard at Mather Field in Sacramento, California. He flies C-12s, the Army's name for the King Air, and all sorts of helicopters (Scout, UH-1, Blackhawk).
Art's wife, Marybeth tells about Art's first trip to the EAA fly-in back in 1993. "We sent him out as a scout," she says, "we wanted to find out what it was like before the rest of us came out."
In the next few years Art brought their older daughter Sarah, who is now 22, and then eventually his wife and both daughters started coming. Sarah, who is now a student pilot, was unable to attend this year due to work commitments ("she's cryin the blues at home"), but younger daughter Erin, 12, is here and is an enthusiastic AirVenture attendee.
"It's like home here. I really like it," says Erin. She has friends who she meets here each year, and particularly enjoys the Activities Tent.
Art has some exciting memories of his earliest visits. "One night there was this fantastic thunderstorm and the wind was really blowing. We were parked next to some Canadians whose tiedowns came loose, so we all grabbed on under the wing and helped hold it down for about an hour. We made some great friends that night."
More recently, "Two years ago we came as part of the Mooney group. 98 Mooneys flew in together."
Art can't say enough about his love for visiting the fly-in. "I can go up to a complete stranger who also has a Navion and have a long talk with them about the plane."
"This is my happy place," he beams.