This piece originally ran in the July 2023 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.
It would seem for Dennis Crispin, EAA 258290, that his whole life has been directing him to volunteer for his local EAA chapter and AirVenture. His first clue came in the form of his favorite childhood book.
“When I was about 5 years old, my grandmother gave me a kid’s book entitled Famous Planes and Pilots,” he said. “It was the first book I tackled, actually read by myself. It instilled a fascination for aircraft that has followed me forever, and I set a goal that someday I would learn to fly.”
Eventually he earned a commercial pilot certificate with instrument and multiengine ratings. As a teenager, Dennis read Paul Poberezny’s articles in Mechanix Illustrated about how to build the Baby Ace. This inspired him to set another life goal — to someday build his own airplane. Thirty years later the construction of a Cozy MK IV got underway. “Other events of life got in the way, and I had to stop that project,” he said. “It was a great disappointment.”
As life went on, EAA and heading to Oshkosh was always in the back of Dennis’ mind. He would eventually join EAA Chapter 569 out of Lincoln, Nebraska, and serve as chapter secretary, newsletter editor, and president.
In 1984, he had the chance to visit Oshkosh. “I thought I’d go see that thing in Wisconsin I always wanted to do,” he said. Since then, Dennis has missed only two AirVentures: in 1985 (he “felt bad all week” about it) and in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the event. He gets the most out of his AirVenture experience by coming to Oshkosh early and volunteering.
“I volunteer at the campground registration ramp,” he said. “Last year was the 25th consecutive year to volunteer on the registration ramp … a couple of years before that I parked airplanes on the North 40 …. It’s a big operation. No one really realizes just how big it is unless they are out there in the middle of it.”
For EAA Chapter 569, Dennis’ volunteer contributions are appreciated even after EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. Doug Volkmer, EAA 717231 and the current EAA Chapter 569 newsletter editor, nominated Dennis to be featured in this column because of contributions to his chapter outside of AirVenture. “He’ll manage to sneak away and take around 1,500 pictures,” Doug said. “He then comes back to Lincoln, Nebraska, and puts on a nice slideshow at our EAA 569 picnic. He does a great job with that. Members who couldn’t make the trip look forward to his report.”
Through his work with EAA Chapter 569, Dennis also played a pivotal role in bringing both the Tri-Motor and the B-17 to Lincoln several times. “When you are heading up one of those displays, it is about a month of work, full-time work, getting all of the things lined up and the people organized and all that kind of thing,” Dennis said. “So, it is not something you can do lightly, but it is a very satisfying thing to do.”
One aspect of EAA that keeps Dennis volunteering with his chapter and AirVenture, that he wishes more people understood, is that it is the people who make EAA special. “A few years ago, I was out on the flightline and a young woman who was making a video production grabbed me and wanted an interview,” he said. “She kept asking me about my favorite airplane. Well, I am not sure I have a favorite airplane. I tried to explain that it is not about airplanes; it is all about people. Airplanes are just the excuse we have to get together. EAAers are the finest bunch of people on earth, and that is what makes it such a great thing.”
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.