Airshow pilot Michael Goulian waves to spectators at the AOPA Homecoming Fly-In on June 6.

Airshow pilot Michael Goulian waves to spectators at the AOPA Homecoming Fly-In on June 6.

Whether jumping out of bed early Saturday morning is part of your weekly routine or not, you’re sure to be thrilled to do just that if it means you’re going to be volunteering at an AOPA fly-in. For aviation fans, the thought of getting up close and personal with a variety of aircraft and the people who fly them is surly exciting, and as a volunteer, the perks of the experience can only be enhanced. Here are the top 10 reasons why:

 10. Free stuff.

It’s amazing to see what people will do for a free T-shirt. If that’s still not enough, you also get a free lunch—and it’s delicious.

9. Golf carts.

Everyone loves golf carts; they are simply a joy to drive and ride around on. Better yet, there’s free food for volunteers on the back of some of them. In fact, there’s so many golf carts running around the event that you may get to drive one.

8. You will feel good about yourself.

There is a sense of pride when you know you devoted your time to doing something good for a cause you truly believe in. It’s an empowering feeling that epitomizes the notion of “helping yourself by helping others.” On top of this, you are outdoors, and just being outdoors is enough to feel like you’ve gotten your daily dose of exercise—even if you’re just gazing at airplanes.

7. Behind-the-scenes access.

Think of it as having a backstage pass at a huge concert. You will see how fun it is to put on such a production, and this includes being up close and personal with performers, aviation toys, and important people…which leads to our next reason.

6. Incredible networking.

Is there an unusual airplane and only one person who flies it? Well, there’s a good chance that person will be at the fly-in and he’d love to tell you everything you wanted to know about his airplane! Perhaps you have an idol who happens to have your aviation dream job? There’s a good chance you’ll find that person at the fly-in too.

 5. You will be recognized.

Free T-shirts and food may be a nice way of saying thank you, but the overwhelming amount of gratitude you get from attendees can’t help but make you feel warm and welcome. The simplicity of a “thank you” can be very rewarding.

4. Eye candy everywhere.

Look up, down, left, and right. There are cool flying toys everywhere. You’ll truly be a kid in a candy shop and the best part is, as a volunteer, you get a thorough experience with them.

 3. Knowledge is power.

There’s a good chance that even if you begin your day knowing absolutely nothing about aviation, then you will walk out of there as a human encyclopedia. An AOPA fly-in is loaded with aviation information, and as a volunteer, it will be sure to rub off on you.

2. Spending time with the nicest people on the planet.

The aviation community is tight-knit, yet overwhelmingly welcoming and hospitable. An AOPA fly-in is populated with exceptional people who want nothing more to inspire you, the volunteer, to be as passionate as you already are about GA.

And finally—

1. The possibilities are infinite.

You may have noticed that there’s a common theme in many of these reasons to volunteer: You never know what might happen. You may meet your aviation idol, you may find out about a dream opportunity you never knew existed, but one thing is certain—the possibilities are endless. Whatever does happen, it’s sure to be memorable and bring a bright smile to your face around the warmest people there are.—Matthew Orloff

Student pilot Matthew Orloff is an editorial intern for AOPA Communications. Orloff volunteered for the AOPA Homecoming Fly-In on June 6.

AOPA is hosting regional fly-ins in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on Aug. 22; Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Sept. 26; and Tullahoma, Tennessee, on Oct. 10. Volunteers are needed! To learn more or sign up, see the website.—Ed.