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Phillip Blake, EAA 27663, affectionately known as “X-Ray,” has a long history with EAA and the fly-in convention, dating all the way back to its days in Rockford, Illinois, in the 1960s.
“My first fly-in was 1965 in Rockford, Illinois, which was basically 35 miles from my parents’ house,” Phillip said. “My eldest sister and her husband were actually the ones that got me involved with EAA. After attending in 1965 with my father, they bought me a junior membership in 1966, and the next year I went up and volunteered. At that time, they had cables sunk into the ground that they’d tie the airplanes to. We’d have to go out and find these cables. I was always concerned that when a wind storm came up, we might cause some damage, but at least we’d keep all the airplanes in the same pile because they’re tied to the same cable. I volunteered through 1969, followed [the convention] up here in 1970, where we camped up on the north side — which is where they park warbirds now. I continued to volunteer through 1973.
“Then I did some other things, went back to college and got busy for a while there. I went back to school and lived in different parts of the country. I came back, and the first year I brought my wife here was 1985, which was the year of the Concorde,” he said. “That was basically the only thing that mattered to her because she didn’t want to come here and see all these airplanes. She got hooked, too, and we’ve been pretty steady coming back here since then.”
In all his years of volunteer service, it’s no surprise that Phillip has had many different responsibilities prior to and during AirVenture.
“One of the things I do (now) is I’m the chair of Audrey’s Park,” he said. “We have a review group: four other people that are employees, [and] I’m the volunteer. My job is to administer the park area. When the decisions are made where people are going to park and given the spot, I’m the first contact. In past years, I’ve been the chairman of the grounds for Vintage. Years ago I gave up the grounds position and was transportation and information. I’ve just recently been appointed as the new South 40 parking chairman. … In addition to that, I’m also on the Volunteer Advisory Committee.”
Of course the week of AirVenture is an exciting and busy time for Phillip and the rest of the volunteers, but in his opinion the weeks leading up to it just may be the most enjoyable for him and some of the people he’s become close to over the years.
“There’s people that come here as soon as the water’s turned on [at Audrey’s Park] and leave when the water’s turned off,” Phillip said. “I’m hit and miss during that time. I’ve been on-site since the end of June and will be through the end of convention. I even come in the wintertime and spend some time overnight.”