In July, Jerry Burke, EAA 365400, was honored with the Volunteer of the Year award at AirVenture Oshkosh 2022. Though Jerry technically only started volunteering in 2007, he’s been working with EAA for much longer.
“I started covering EAA as a reporter in 1970,” Jerry explained. “I knew Steve Wittman, and Steve called me, and he said, ‘I got a thing coming up this summer that you might be interested in covering.’”
One could say the rest is history. Starting at a radio station in Oshkosh, Jerry went on to cover AirVenture as a reporter for Channel 2. Though it took some convincing, by 1977, Jerry was out on the grounds reporting every day.
Though he retired in 2007, Jerry wasn’t done with EAA. He started volunteering at what is now Boeing Plaza, but Tom Poberezny had different plans for Jerry.
“Tom Poberezny pulled me into his office and says, ‘Jerry, we’re wasting your talents. I’ve got an idea where you would interview the pilots and crews on the ramp, and we’ll call it ‘Plane Talk.’ We did Plane Talk for the first time in ’08.”
This new program turned out to be a hit, with large crowds gathering to hear and participate in half-hour Q&As with aviation legends such as astronauts like Gene Cernan and Jim Lovell or Tuskegee Airmen like Gen. McGee, Col. Hardy, and Col. Stewart.
Jerry has had the chance to talk to some incredible people and has had some amazing experiences from his many years at AirVenture, but his favorites all revolve around the Concorde.
“The first year [Concorde] came in, they had just extended the runway to 12,000 feet,” Jerry said. “Capt. [John] Cook had come in March of that year to make sure there was enough runway for it to land. … He said, ‘If we come in with good weather, we have 34 feet to spare.’ … She comes in, and John, as she touched down, he did something nobody knew was going to happen, including the tower. He did a touch-and-go, and the place went bonkers.”
Through Jerry’s many years spent working with EAA, he can’t help but feel thankful.
“EAA, I stumbled onto it,” he said. “Thank you, Steve Wittman; thank you, Paul. They welcomed me from the get-go, and boy, you couldn’t ask for more.”
And thank you, Jerry, for all the work you have put in helping EAA flourish!
Volunteers make EAA AirVenture Oshkosh — and just about everything else EAA does — possible. This space in EAA Sport Aviation is dedicated to thanking and shining the spotlight on volunteers from the community. Sadly, it cannot capture all of the thousands of volunteers who give so much to the community every year. So, next time you see a volunteer at AirVenture or elsewhere, however they are pitching in to make EAA better, be sure to thank them for it. It’s the least we can do. Do you know a volunteer you’d like to nominate for Volunteer Spotlight? Visit EAA.org/Submissions.