On the Air: EAA Radio
By Barbara A. Schmitz
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.
EAA Radio personalities
“Afterburner Al” (center) and “Digital Dave” (right) interview
U.S. Customs Service pilot Patrick O'Brien on the air. Photo by
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
“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.”
Since then, EAA Radio has moved to a new home
along the flightline, built some studios and begged and borrowed for
“We’re good at slowly acquiring equipment,”
Guyot says. “It’s beginning to really feel like a radio
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
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
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
“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
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.”
(You can listen to streaming EAA Radio at