Photo by Chris
EAA Chairman and President Tom Poberezny says that the success of
AirVenture 2009 is proof that interest and the passion for
aviation has not waned.
August 2, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin
- Time flies when you’re having fun with flying. At EAA AirVenture,
it seems like time flies at Mach 2.
AirVenture 2009 brought it on, from some of
the world’s tiniest flying machines, weighing less than 300 pounds, to
the world’s largest airliner at 1.2 million pounds takeoff weight.
The fly-in attracted something of everything
in the way of aeronautical conveyances, from the very old to the very
From the low-and-slow set to a machine
designed for high-altitude space-vehicle launches, AirVenture had the
spectrum covered from the ground up.
The fly-in witnessed anniversaries— the
100th anniversary of aviation in Canada, the 80th birthday of the
Pietenpol, the 60th for the T-28, the 50th for the Cessna 150, for example—
and reunions of old friends and passengers on past Concorde flights.
AirVenture 2009 even witnessed a wedding proposal by one AirVenture
volunteer to another.
The show offered glimpses into the future of
electric-powered aircraft and an outlook on developing fuel alternatives
for petroleum-burning powerplants.
But as always, the biggest Oshkosh attraction
for most was the chance to share the experience with others who “get it.”
And they came like never before.
Overflowing aircraft campgrounds, a
filled-to-capacity Camp Scholler, even filled-beyond-belief car parking
lots— they all add up to what EAA President and Chairman Tom Poberezny
said was “a convention that will go down in the record books as one of
the best ever.”
“It’s hard to put into words,” he
“In every category—aircraft, camping,
attendance, you name it—everything exceeded expectations.
“On Sunday night we were looking for camping
space, on Friday we were looking for parking space,” Poberezny
recounted. “We parked cars in places where we’ve never parked cars
Best of all, he continued, was the convention’s
“What really is important is the attitude,”
he stressed. “People with smiles on their faces, very positive.
“It’s easy to say that, but it’s pure
reality—especially at a time when some expected just the opposite.”
Exactly what the final tally will show is
still in flux, according to Brian Wierzbinski, EAA vice president of
“We’re still looking at the overall
numbers,” he explained, “but all indications are pointing to an
extremely successful year.”
The Week That Was
Anybody notice some big stuff? Such as an Airbus A380? Or an Erickson
Aircrane? Or the C-5 that became summer shade on AeroShell Square when the
Yeah, lots of big stuff…some aimed right out
of this world—as in Eve, the name of the WhiteKnightTwo launch platform
for Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson wants
to make space the accessible frontier.
And there were plenty of smaller flying
machines that arrived in big ways, thanks to the scores of airplanes in
the mass arrivals: Bonanzas and Barons, Cessnas and Mooneys, Comanches and
Pietenpol and Ercoupes, oh my.
Two documentable, certifiable heroes attracted
due attention, too, without ever displaying a hint of hubris.
Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III and
Jeffrey Skiles and their three veteran cabin attendants saw to the
survival of 155 passengers on US Airways Flight 1549 after navigating the
gauntlet of Manhattan Island and taking one step toward a seaplane rating.
Two more splashes, sailplane veteran Sully joked at one point, and the FAA
says he can add the seaplane endorsement.
The up side of their story, though, is visible
around the world in today’s heightened awareness of the tangible threat
of bird strikes.
Even as the sun set, the grounds buzzed with
people swarming to their favorite après-flight activity—late night
movies, evening programs in the Theater in the Woods, a helicopter pilot
and comic who talks to wooden puppets, a concert featuring music icons of
The evening show in the Ultralight area, the
daily show in the sky, the nighttime communing with fellow fliers.
If AirVenture 2009 didn’t wind your watch,
you must not have come out of your tent.
Blasé economy no hindrance
The recurring questions about events like AirVenture—attendance
levels, business participation, aircraft arrivals— remained in the
forefront within the aviation community for months after the Sun ’n Fun
Fly-In attracted a smaller crowd than in recent years— and in light of
the acknowledged decline in exhibitors registering for the National
Business Aviation Association convention in October.
But if there were doubts at-large, no evidence
surfaced at Oshkosh supporting the worries.
“It just reinforces that the interest and
the passion for aviation is as strong as it’s ever been,” said
Poberezny. “And if it all possible, people did not let the economy get
in their way of participation.”
The fly-in masses drew smiles and sighs of joy
from many a vendor, as well, with most expressing satisfaction or outright
joy with the level of business generated at AirVenture.
“Initial reports from exhibitors have been
good to great, which shows that people are re-engaging, economically and
mentally, in aviation,” Poberezny said.
“An event like this can be the best economic
stimulus package we can have.”
Plane-makers sold planes, systems suppliers
sold their systems, and new products generated fresh buzz. “This puts
smiles on faces and smiles on us,” said one supplier of GPS user guides.
And as they started their return trips, more
than a few AirVenture veterans already planned to return—next year, the
year after, “some day.”
The timelessness of an event like AirVenture
seems to transcend the transient woes and wobbles of life— and it showed
here this year.
Said Poberezny, “It’s very gratifying to
see the stature of Oshkosh reinforced at this time.
“It’s a tribute to the members and the
Now, if the next 51 weeks fly past as fast as
this week, we’ll be back to do it all again before we know it.
See you next year at AirVenture 2010. Have a
safe trip home.