Pilots from all over the country head to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, later this month for the annual Experimental Aircraft Association fly-in known as “Air-Venture.” Some cope with troubles that include unexpected breakdowns, and they are likely to meet Iowa pilot Cy Galley. He’s a member of the Quad Cities EAA Chapter which for more than forty years has had a service project, offering aid to those unlucky aviators.

Some fifteen to 20-thousand airplanes arrive, and the mechanics who normally work at that small airport are overwhelmed. So the club brings up tools and sets up a building to house it all. Sponsors help supply everything from extra tools to a pickup truck Galley can drive around the grounds where thousands of people are camping.

There’s four square miles of camping, and an area called “The North Forty” where the factory-built airplanes park after their owners fly them in. The flight line is all the warbirds and antique classic airplanes, there’s another section for home-built airplanes and even one for ultralights. The repair service started out in a tent years ago but today has everything from hydraulic presses to arc welding available, all to help the amateur pilot with a breakdown at Oshkosh. He’s got about fifty people working for him.

“Maybe I should say with me, because I’m chairman in fact, but in actuality the place runs itself pretty well.” He says his helpers are builders and mechanics with the skills to see airplanes make it back into the air safely. They provide equipment, chargers, some help and advice to fix things like a flat tire, bad brakes or batteries. If a pilot has a “prop strike” taxiing from the grassy camping area and breaks the propeller, they’ll have to send away for one at their own expense, but they’ll get a lot of help putting it on.

Galley’s been doing this for 35 years and has lots of stories to tell. He tells of the time a pilot landing an F-16 held the nose too high, and tilted the craft at such a steep angle he “drug the tailfeathers” on the pavement of the runway. So the pilot wouldn’t have to make a report and admit damaging the government plane at the fly-in, his crew fixed it all up and painted over the scrape, “but inside the tail-cone, there’s an Oshkosh sticker floatin’ around someplace.”

As for his day job, Galley claims he’s “totally retired,” except for keeping the website of a Quad Cities bicycle club, writing articles for the EAA’s “Sport Aviation” magazine, doing the newsletter for two different aviators’ clubs and planning the next year’s Airventure repair service.

Related web sites:
Experimental Aircraft Association