CAMP DOUGLAS, WIS. – One event a lot of pilots look forward to every other year is the Volk Field Air National Guard Base Open House Fly-In & Air Show held this year on Saturday, June 2, 2012 at Camp Douglas, Wisconsin. The fly-in is an opportunity to land at a first-class military installation and see our armed forces’ front line fighters, bombers and transports up close in hopes of avoiding them in the air, and to meet the highly trained pilots that fly them. It is also an opportunity for the U.S. Air Force to dialogue with pilots concerning airspace restrictions, and to promote pilot education and safety. But pilots who flew in faced more obstacles this year than in the past.
First, pilots had to pre-register online at least one week in advance. For many pilots, by the time they learned that a fly-in was going to be held, it was too late to register.
Second, the base opened for car arrivals beginning at 6:30 AM, but the airfield did not open for aircraft arrivals until 9:00 AM because of a 5K race being held on the runway from 7:30 to 8:30 AM. Pilot seminars sponsored by the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics began at 10:30 AM. Considering that it took at least 20 minutes to get to the building on base where the pilot seminars were held, that allowed the pilots and passengers of only 8 of the 44 aircraft that were pre-registered to land to attend the morning seminars. The other 36 aircraft were spread out throughout the day, with the exception of 1 hour from 12:30 to 1:30 PM, when the airport was closed for the air show. If a pilot could not arrive before the air show, they most likely opted not to attend.
The largest fly-in in the world, EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, accepts arrivals on a first-come, first-serve basis, and deals with thousands of arrivals and departures for an entire week. Also, thousands of fly-ins are held each year at uncontrolled airports, without incident, thanks to good air-to-air communications between pilots. There are also miles of roadways on the base where the Volk Field 5K run could be held, other than on a runway needed for fly-in aircraft arrivals.
Event organizer, Major Christopher Hansen – a GA pilot himself – now realizes that the 10-minute time slots slowed traffic and delayed activities, as did the 5K run on the runway, and pledges to work to resolve those conflicts in 2014.
Hansen, and SMSgt Wayne “Buck” Reynolds, the air traffic manager at Volk, indicated that they definitely want to keep improving their ability to get all guests on to the base and make it worth their while.
“We will look at the arrival timeslots to see if we can shorten the time between them,” said Hansen, “but we will still have to use them as a way to register and meter our GA guests into the military airfield. We don’t want people getting stuck on extended vectors. That being said, we will try to extend some flexibility into our process to accommodate more (arrivals) during the fly-in, but the military does require an extra amount of work to land civilian registered aircraft. SMSgt Reynolds and I will take this issue up to see if we can get it even more user-friendly, while still accommodating military requirements.”
About 3,000 people attended the open house, which was down from past years.
Air show performers included the Hoppers Jet Demonstration Team flying L-39s, Darrel Massman flying a Panzl S-330, Bill Cowden and his
Yak-52, and the B-25 “Miss Mitchell” from the Southern Minnesota Wing of the Commemorative Air Force.