EAA AirVenture Oshkosh - The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh - The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration EAA AirVenture Oshkosh - The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh - The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration EAA AirVenture Oshkosh - The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration

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On the Air: EAA Radio

EAA Radio personalities “Afterburner Al” (center) and “Digital Dave” (right) interview U.S. Customs Service pilot Patrick O'Brien on the air. Photo by Dave Higdon

They’re a retired stay-at-home dad, a former engineer and a college professor. One flies charter airplanes, another works for a home equipment store, and others attend college.

But during EAA Air Venture Oshkosh they are the voices and talents behind EAA Radio.

Broadcast 24 hours a day on AM 1210, the volunteers give of their time to bring to EAA convention-goers the latest programming information, the scuttlebutt about aviation personalities, live coverage of the daily air show and Theater in the Woods, and more.
New equipment has helped bring the station newfound reliability this year.

Fareed Guyot, of Milwaukee, coordinates EAA Radio, making sure they have the staff and equipment to do the job.

“The modern version of EAA Radio started in 1996,” he says. “But that year there was no programming. Just a mixer in the comm center and someone making announcements.”

Jim Grey cues playback files for EAA Radio. Most interviews are now recorded and edited on computers, eliminating tape decks and splicing blocks. The computer automation also allows the station to operate 24 hours a day.

Since then, EAA Radio has moved to a new home along the flightline, built some studios and begged and borrowed for better equipment.

“We’re good at slowly acquiring equipment,” Guyot says. “It’s beginning to really feel like a radio station.”

But more important, they’re sounding like a radio station, with live interviews conducted from 7 to 11 a.m., followed by pre-recorded interviews done on the field and in the station from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. At that time, they switch to coverage of the daily air show, and later, the nightly Theater in the Woods program. Overnight, automation allows them to air previous interviews.

“We’re always trying to improve,” Guyot says. “We have a very small focus group of people who camp with us. They wake up with EAA Radio and let us know how we’re doing.”

Guyot persuaded Jim Gray, a friend and radio professor at St. Cloud, Minnesota, to join the ranks of volunteers this year. “I’m the only EAA Radio volunteer who actually works in radio,” he says. He’s provided some training to the volunteers to bring more professionalism to the station.

“They always joke and ask if they can get college credit for doing this,” Gray says. “I just tell them they don’t want to pay those fees.”

Mel Futrell, of Los Angeles, is EAA Radio’s first female radio personality. She particularly enjoys interviews with EAA’s international visitors. And with it being streamed over the web, visitors can go home and share the interview with their families, she says.

Dave Leuter, of Chester County, Pennsylvania, remembers the early years of EAA Radio. “The first year I was locked in a room without windows where the PA amplifiers were and I basically read AirVenture Today over the air,” he recalls. It was difficult to get people to come in the studio for interviews. “But when we started getting press credentials that changed; when people see the press badge, they are willing to talk.”

Of course it doesn’t hurt that Leuter loves to talk himself. “Being on the radio is a dream. It is a lot of fun.”

Rob Sturgeon of Portage, Indiana, agrees. As the roving reporter, he gets to do things like a walk-through of the C-5A Galaxy, while the crew explains where everything is. 

Reporter Rob Sturgeon interviews an EAA AirVenture Oshkosh pilot. Aside from live interviews conducted in-studio, reporters comb the convention site to gather other interesting stories from AirVenture. EAA Radio broadcasts live from studios located just east of the FAA Control Tower.

“There are really exciting people here,” he says. “I love being able to move around the field and meet people from different counties who have different airplanes. But I also enjoy talking to people who haven’t been to AirVenture before. They’re so in awe.”

Barbara Lawrence, of Racine, Wisconsin, says occasionally a scheduled interview doesn’t show. Then the staff just wings it and “babbles.”

Chris Fitzsimmons, of Elgin, Illinois, has been volunteering as a technician for EAA Radio for eight years. Although Fitzsimmons says he wouldn’t want to make radio his life, he does enjoy his week “vacation” at AirVenture.

“This convention wouldn’t exist without volunteers,” he says. “It’s the people and the love of aviation that brings me back each year.”

While Lawrence agrees that the people bring her back each year, there is one big benefit for working for EAA Radio, she says. “You get to sit in air conditioning.”



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