WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP | Several members of the Experimental Aircraft Association's Northwest Indiana chapter got a bonus Friday afternoon.
The group has been camped at the Porter County Municipal Airport for more than a week to greet pilots headed to the annual air show in Oshkosh, Wis. They sell freshly grilled hot dogs, hamburger and brats along with turkey sandwiches and drinks for the pilots while they get refueled.
"We're always at the mercy of the weather, but seldom at the mercy of the vice president," said chapter President Ed Hanson, of Crown Point.
The group learned Tuesday that a VIP was expected at the airport Friday, and Hanson said they could tell by the air space restrictions it probably was Vice President Joe Biden. Air Force 2, with Biden and several others aboard, landed about 3:45 p.m. and taxied to the terminal building, where everyone was quickly whisked away by the Secret Service.
Airport manager Kyle Kuebler said he was told Monday to expect an important visitor, and the airport has been working with the White House security detail to make sure everything went smoothly. Protective measures included stationing snipers on the roof of the terminal and restricting access to the terminal to security personnel only.
A member of the cleaning crew arriving for work at the building next to the terminal said she never had seen the terminal entrance blocked off before. Kuebler said it was the first time in his 22 years at the airport such a high-ranking official landed at Porter County, although a former president landed there once.
"It's normal operations for us," he said. "It's an airplane, and it landed."
For the EAA members, it actually was a bit of a hindrance. The group uses the money raised from food sales to support its activities, and the visit meant the airport was off limits for regular traffic for more than an hour. And neither Biden nor anyone else on the plane bought even a hot dog.
The group had only about 10 planes stop by Friday afternoon, and Hanson said they've had as many as 35 in the past. The Oshkosh show goes through the weekend, but the EAA will be at the airport through Wednesday to greet pilots and visitors for the Collins Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour.
The Wings of Freedom planes arrive Monday, and visitors can tour the planes and go for rides. Tuesday will be the big day, Hanson said.
"We'll sell a lot of ice cream on Tuesday," he predicted.
It's expected Biden will depart the airport Sunday after speaking to the American Federation of Teachers convention in Detroit. It's unknown if he likes ice cream.