EAA AirVenture Oshkosh - The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration

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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedAlready?! AirVenture wraps up a big one
By Dave Higdon, EAA AirVenture Today

Photo by Chris Hibben
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 new. 

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 admitted. 

“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 before.” 

Best of all, he continued, was the convention’s “air.” 

“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 finance. 

“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 Airbus left? 

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 1970s.

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 volunteers.”

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.

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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