Urgent Special Call for Help: Marshal the Arsenal of Democracy!

As you surely know by now, our Chapter will be instrumental in pulling off the Arsenal of Democracy (AoD) 2020 Flyover of Washington, DC, commemorating the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day on May 8 with a sky full of 112 WWII airplanes. What you may not realize is just how huge this event is going to be, and how much help we’re going to need.

We’ll be putting up information for volunteer sign-ups as we get a little closer to the event, but we have a critical need we must fill up front, right now. We’re slated to have 26 pieces of heavy iron – 26 big, multi-engine WWII airplanes! – on our east ramp, and controlling their ground movements to keep everyone safe is going to be absolutely critical. We need someone with large aircraft (preferably including big taildraggers) marshaling experience to head up our flight line marshaling squad throughout the event, along with enough team members to field at least four marshalers on deck (one communicating directly with pilot, one on each wing, and one positioned along the path) whenever planes are scheduled to move on the field. We can work in shifts if we can get enough people to fill in the squad.

Everyone volunteering specifically for the marshaling squad must be an adult (for insurance reasons, we cannot have CAP cadets or other children working on the field during AoD-specific operations) and will have to attend a training and drill session prior to the AoD, to ensure that all participants are using clear and consistent signals and can communicate effectively with each other. The AOPA will provide the instructor and training session. Our squad leader is the only one who absolutely must already have significant large aircraft marshaling experience; we can train other team members willing to commit to learn, but I’m hoping we might have some ex-military flight line folks eager to strut their stuff again.

I know this is a lot to ask, but we need people – and most particularly our team leader – able to commit to working multiple days. The aircraft are all due to arrive on May 4 and 5, 2020, hopefully not in groups; while the APP Jet Center line folks will be able to help, we’ll need at least a basic four-person squad to assist in getting them into their pre-assigned parking spots. On May 6, the FAA FSDO will be doing ramp checks on all the planes, and then some of them at least will be doing media flights; we’ll have a bit of a zoo on the field, because the media presence for this event will be massive!

May 7 will be our practice day for the flyover. Basically, we’ll be doing everything except having the airplanes actually fly over DC. We’ll practice sanitizing the ramp (which will be essential on the actual flyover day, when the Secret Service, DoD, TSA, FBI, and the rest of the alphabet soup will ensure that nothing on any of the planes could damage DC, and that only the pre-approved crews and passengers board the planes), handling the sequential launches of our fleet, and then recovering the airplanes upon their return. Hopefully, that should be enough for the day!

May 8 – weather permitting – will be the flyover day, when we do it all for real. We’ll need to be a well-oiled machine! Hopefully, our practice on the 7th will have everyone sharp and on the numbers for the ramp sanitization, aircraft checks, aircraft boarding, and aircraft launch schedule. And then things will get even more interesting – because when the planes come back, they won’t be parking in the same spots from which they left!

Here’s the thing. Some of the planes from the flyover – including our EAA B-17 and B-25 – will be staying on to do revenue flights and ground tours for the remainder of the weekend. I’m waiting on the final list of which other aircraft intend to conduct tour business at Manassas, and EAA Oshkosh will need to work out any revenue-sharing arrangements they might want to make with CAF and/or others about sharing the tour stop. But we’ll be parking those aircraft nearest the terminal and creating defined safe space around them where the public will be permitted to roam. During the tour stop setup, our usual ramp rules – not the special adults-only AoD flight line ones – will apply to our line crew, so we could include responsible young people in our ground crews

A bunch of the other planes, including a mix of all the different aircraft types participating in the flyover, will be staying overnight on the field at Manassas, but will then fly off early on May 9 to land at Dulles and go on public display on the ramp at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. We’ll park those birds in their own separate area, to facilitate their early Saturday morning departure. They won’t be coming back to Manassas; instead, they’ll depart from Dulles on Sunday, May 10.

Some planes may simply park and look pretty, without opening to the public, when they return from the flyover. Those would be furthest away from the terminal.

Anyway, that’s the concept in a big nutshell. You’ll be hearing a LOT more as we get closer! But we really need to be certain as early as possible that we’ll have enough qualified marshalers to manage the ramp throughout the AoD, from May 4-10, 2020. If you want to volunteer specifically for the marshaling team – particularly if you’d like to be the official squad leader of the marshaling team – please send an email to mary@bardicvoice.com, and be certain to detail your large aircraft marshaling experience!

One last heads-up. I know that people in this Chapter ALWAYS turn out to volunteer for the B-17, and that would apply in spades to having 26 WWII planes on the field! But for this monster event, it will be absolutely essential for anyone who wants to participate on the AoD ramp to register in advance. For obvious security reasons, access to the ramp during the event preparation and execution will be strictly controlled. AOPA will be operating a master registration database for all volunteers, and will issue ramp credentials appropriate to the different security levels associated with specific duties. This time, you won’t be able simply to show up and volunteer; you’ll need to jump through the right hoops first. Please, do!

And thanks!