This piece originally ran in the June 2021 issue of EAA Sport Aviation magazine.
When Bob Havens was growing up, the book Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo , about the Doolittle Raid on Japan during World War II, helped inspire his love of aviation. It’s that love that has kept Bob, EAA 526515, involved and active with aviation, including for the past 10 years as an EAA Aviation Museum docent volunteer.
“When I was 7 years old or so, my parents enrolled me in World Book Encyclopedia’s Book of the Month Club, and one of the books I got was Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo . I read that book so many times, I wore it out,” he said. “That’s what started my interest. I went to Purdue University to be an aeronautical engineer, though I did not graduate as an aeronautical engineer. My goal was to be an astronaut; didn’t make it. I was in the Air Force for seven years. I was an aircraft maintenance officer, ended up as a captain on B-52s and KC-135s. Flew in B-52s during Vietnam. I was in Okinawa for two-and-a-half years doing that.
“After I got out, I was in the electric motor business for 30-some years, ended up as a marketing manager for Marathon Electric up in Wausau. I became an EAA member in 1996. Retired in 2011 and came down here as a docent.”
In addition to his duties as a docent, which include training other docents to give tours and organizing the Boy Scouts Aviation Merit Badge program’s involvement with EAA, Bob is also the chairman of EAA’s docent committee and an expert on the EAA Aviation Museum’s 1938 Bugatti Model 100 Racer.
“Once I got here, I got interested in this little blue airplane we’ve got over here called the Bugatti,” he said. “I wanted to learn a little bit more about it, so I went on a website and found there was a Bugatti Aircraft Association. Now I’ve put together a presentation about the Bugatti aircraft, Ettore Bugatti who started it, and the history of this aircraft. I’ve done it at several EAA chapters, and I do it just about every year at AirVenture.”
In 2014, Bob was honored with the Henry Kimberly Award, which is given to EAA’s local volunteer of the year — something that took him by surprise.
“Winning the Kimberly Award was probably one of the highlights of my life,” he said. “That just totally blew me away. I’ve enjoyed being a docent, being around the airplanes, being around [EAA Aviation Museum Programs Coordinator] Chris [Henry] . It’s been fantastic.”
In his years as a docent, Bob has had the chance to be around historic aircraft and historic people. A few years back, he had the opportunity to ride in a B-25 with the last surviving Doolittle Raider, Lt. Col. Dick Cole, bringing his aviation journey that began with Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo full circle. But, like many volunteers, it’s the people Bob has gotten to know and interact with that’s kept him coming back.
“I love aviation and being around the airplanes, and the people. I’ve found that the one thing that gets me unbelievably is we have, during AirVenture, something like 40,000 people in this museum. You can walk around this museum at the end of the day and you could eat off the floors. The amount of respect the people in the aviation community have for this place, aviation in general, and people in general is just unbelievable. I love being around that.”
Volunteers make EAA AirVenture Oshkosh — and just about everything else EAA does — possible. This space in EAA Sport Aviation is dedicated to thanking and shining the spotlight on volunteers from the community. Sadly, it cannot capture all of the thousands of volunteers who give so much to the community every year. So, next time you see a volunteer at AirVenture or elsewhere, however they are pitching in to make EAA better, be sure to thank them for it. It’s the least we can do. Do you know a volunteer you’d like to nominate for Volunteer Spotlight? Visit EAA.org/Submissions .