AOPA Fly-In volunteers are an energetic, enthusiastic bunch who help the event run smoothly. But what compels pilots and guests to volunteer to work part of a fly-in instead of taking it all in as an attendee? They want an extra helping of fun.
Aviators are always looking for an excuse to hang out at the airport, and the AOPA Fly-In is a perfect one. Airports come to life as hundreds of pilots fly in and thousands of aviation enthusiasts attend the event to camp, enjoy educational seminars, shop in the exhibit hall, look at display aircraft, and hang out with other pilots. In addition to spending a day at the airport, volunteers get a behind-the-scenes perspective of what it takes to host a fly-in because they are an active part of pulling it off safely and efficiently.
Pilots can volunteer to help with airside operations, which puts them closer to the action. They are stationed on taxiways and in grassy areas closer to the runway than the main event, so they can closely watch aircraft land before marshalling them to the parking area. It also offers a first opportunity to look over tricked-out, rare, or brand-new aircraft as they taxi by.
Pilots love to work around airplanes—the sights and sounds of aircraft maneuvering on the ground are second only to the sights and sounds of aircraft flying. The adrenaline rush of watching an aircraft taxi by, marshalling it to the parking area, or parking aircraft offers a sense of adventure and accomplishment.
General aviation is a welcoming community in which pilots from all over the country can bond instantly during a conversation about flying. Volunteers said that one of their favorite aspects of the event was greeting pilots after they had parked and shut down their aircraft. Working with fellow pilots also ranked high. Two pilots who volunteered at the Plymouth, Massachusetts, Fly-In in 2014 really hit it off and later married.
By helping fly-in airside operations run smoothly, volunteers expressed a closer sense of belonging to AOPA. Many cited the shoulder-to-shoulder interactions with AOPA staff members as one of the benefits of volunteering—and were even on a first-name basis with staff by the time their volunteer shift ended.
Pilots interested in volunteering at 2017 AOPA Fly-Ins can explore the opportunities available at all four of the 2017 locations and sign up to help out. Volunteers also receive a free lunch, a volunteer T-shirt, and a cap as a thank you from AOPA.