All posts tagged 'warbirds'

The Chocks Master


The Chocks Master

by Moreno Aguiari of


Over the decade or so of my being an active member of the warbird community, one of the things I have enjoyed the most has been the opportunity to meet some amazing people along the way. So many of them are among the unsung heroes of the movement; the vital volunteer army that helps bring success each year to events such as EAA AirVenture or Sun ‘N Fun.


One of these special guys I’m talking about is Dave Jackson, a longtime EAA and Warbirds of America member and a volunteer at both AirVenture and Sun ‘N Fun. I met Dave four years ago when a mutual friend asked me to bring him a WWII era 1 and 3/4″ stencil machine. I learned that Dave uses these stencil machines to create custom artwork that he paints onto aircraft chocks.

Why would one do that, you ask? Well, have you ever been to Oshkosh during EAA AirVenture and visited “Warbird Alley” – the area of the airport ramp where all of the warbirds are parked? If so, have you ever noticed that the aircraft is held in place by beautiful chocks, custom painted for particular occasions or anniversaries? Well, those chocks are the product of Dave’s year-long effort to add an extra degree of historical coolness to the ramp, celebrating the aircraft we all love so dearly.


The chocks Dave Jackson made for the D-Day Squadron


During the most recent Sun ‘N Fun show, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dave for an interview to get a little more insight into how he goes about creating these marvelous aircraft chocks. We hope you enjoy hearing more….

MA: How did you get involved in aviation?

Dave: My parents’ house was near the Muskegon airport in Michigan, and I could see the airport beacon from my bedroom. I remember DC-3s and DC-6s flying in and out of the airport and that’s where it all started for me. I passed my passion to two of my sons that are now professional pilots; one flies F/A-18F Super Hornets for the US Navy and the other one is a former regional airline pilot.

MA: How did you start making custom chocks?

Dave: It’s pretty interesting… when my middle son Ryan was in college at the Florida Institute of Technology pursuing his Aviation Degree and working for Basler Turbo Conversions in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, he was asked to build chocks for the company’s airplanes. The local carpentry company gave him a bunch of 6″x6″ wood and off he went to build the chocks. He cut them to specs, painted them yellow and applied the stencils. He brought a couple of chocks home, and I was very pleased with his work. Fast forward to the same summer and my neighbor decided to install a fence around his pool. At the end of the job, I picked up a bunch of 4″x4″ [wood] of about a foot and a half long and brought them in my garage with the idea of building chocks for my aviation and pilot friends. As time went on, I primarily made chocks for warbird owners, active and retired military pilots.



MA: When did you actually start making chocks for events?

Dave: The first chocks I made were for the 1993 AirVenture (then called EAA Fly-In), so I have been making chocks for more than 25 years. I started with very simple chocks, then chock after chock… I started sanding them, smoothing the edges, improving the paint and the stencil’s quality. I tried to improve them every year.

MA: How does the creative process work?

Dave: I always come up with my own theme. I do research about anniversaries and important events for each year, and then I go to work.



MA: What are the most special chocks you have made?

Dave: One of my favorite sets of chocks were those I made for Susie Parish, founder of the Kalamazoo Air Museum. Susie, besides the pink P-40, used to have a T-34 Mentor of the same color. In 1997, I knew she was going to make AirVenture with her T-34, so I made chocks for her airplane… I didn’t know Susie, but I made the chocks for the airplane anyway. On Saturday night during the warbird banquet, she stood up and said, “I don’t know who made these pink chocks for me, but this was the best present I ever received!” A few years later, I made the chocks for her P-40 and delivered them to her at the museum. When she died, the museum decided to hang the P-40 from the ceiling in the museum’s atrium, and my chocks ended up in the cockpit of the airplane. To this day, the chocks are still there!”

The ‘Remembering Program Chocks’ are also very special to me. This is a program that I started two years ago to help honor those volunteers or pilots who passed. It is a nice way to remember our fellow friends. This year I started making the chocks to honor the WASP.


An example of one of the Remembering Program Chocks


MA: What type of wood do you use?

Dave: After much trial and error, I have determined that the white pine tree is simply the best wood, as it is soft enough that it can be modeled with ease, and more importantly, it doesn’t crack. The pinewood, being easy to work with, allows me to produce everything from mini chocks, which I use to gift people with, to big chocks for larger airplanes like the C-47 and bombers.


Dave signs every custom chock alongside his A-4 logo.


MA: What are the steps to finish and paint the chocks?

Dave: After a good sanding, I apply the primer and then I spray paint them. I have four stencil machines, a 1/4″, a 1/2″, a 3/4″ and now a 1 and 3/4″. For special designs, usually, I search the internet for images,  print them and transfer the subject to the stencil paper.

MA: Can you tell us what you are planning for Oshkosh this year?

Dave: The WASP chocks are going to be new this year. The main new design is the one dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the Boeing 747 and since AirVenture plans to have six or seven 747, I plan to make the 14″ chocks for all the airplanes.

Many thanks again to Dave Jackson for sitting down with me to discuss his creative process. And for those of you interested in meeting him in person, Dave will be easy to spot at every major EAA event – in fact, he drives a cool Blue Angels-themed golf cart equipped with afterburners and arrestor hook! Please make sure to stop him and shake his hand – you never know, you might walk away with some special chocks!


The author (R) with Dave “El Chocko” Jackson (L) during EAA Sun ‘N Fun 2019.


Happy National Aviation Day!

Outside the office, tour guides here at Bowman Field (KLOU), presumably next door from Louisville Executive Aviation, one of the FBOs at the airport, or perhaps leaders from the local Civil Air Patrol, led a group of children around the tie-down area behind our building. Just after lunchtime today, they strolled through the line adjacent to one of the runways, looking at various aircraft on the field, mostly pistons, a couple Citations probably and a European trainer-fighter jet. The tour was fitting, as today is National Aviation Day.

In this post, we will pause and honor the history of flight, as well as recap how other groups are celebrating across the country. Why confine the commemoration to a single day, though?  In order to allow us to celebrate the feats and marvels that have taken place within the industry, many push back the schedule and observe the entire week as National Aviation Week. [more]


Events this week include:

A look at how an EAA Chapter reconstructed the 1940s crash of a warbird

Civil Air Patrol events take place in North Carolina and Alabama

A free event at the New England Air Museum in Connecticut

How to make a tiny airplane out of a few pieces of candy

Celebration at the Chennault Museum in Louisiana

Pilots in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania reflect on their passion to fly

Review some posts on the blog that detail aspects of aviation history

Oh yeah, by the way, it's also National Potato Day


The federal observation of National Aviation Day, which coincides with Orville Wright’s birthday, began 71 years ago today when President Franklin Roosevelt made the distinction with the stroke of a pen and a nod to the pioneers of controlled flight. The moment took place in an era that many look back as one that crested within a movement that sprinted toward today’s modern aviation.

Scrappy fighters and burly bombers played key roles in determining the fate of humanity in World War II. Within a year of Roosevelt’s declaration, Allied and Axis forces would see planes evolve from experimental objects into speedy military assets like the P-51 Mustang and A6M Zero that battled in the sky. The Germans flew the Heinkel He 178 during the era, the first usable jet, amongst a span of a few short years that saw rapid innovation in aviation and technology on both sides of the wire.

Planes like the B-29 Superfortress delivered greater payloads in increasingly efficient manner, and it forever changed warfare tactics and global politics by dropping a pair of atomic bombs on Japan.  Thus, Roosevelt’s decision to honor the spirit of aviation by setting aside a national day was a small but important key in boosting American defense and technological progress. When the war ended, it set the stage for even further development amongst aircraft.

Commercial aviation ballooned. Suddenly, cross-country and international travel became attainable to the public. Then, three decades after Roosevelt’s declaration, mankind took a giant leap and placed footprints on the moon.

Soon private space travel, too, will be within the realm of possibility. Today is a great day to reflect backward and, at the same time, imagine the possibilities ahead.

 Hopefully, you get a chance to celebrate the day by visiting an airport or aviation museum, while getting a chance pass the spirit on to others.

Drop a line in the comments section and let us know how you are celebrating the moment.  What do you think the world of aviation will look like when we celebrate the 100th National Aviation Day in 2039?

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