Every year at AirVenture Oshkosh, more than 10,000 aircraft are flown into Wittman Regional Airport, and typically about 2,500 of them are categorized as showplanes—those inspected by judges during the week for coveted Oshkosh awards. They compete in separate homebuilt, vintage, warbird, ultralight, seaplane, aerobatic, and rotorcraft categories.
Judging at EAA AirVenture is governed by the EAA Judging Standards Manual, a short (20 pages for all Divisions) booklet that sets the guidelines for the volunteer judges to follow.
And, quoting from the manual, please recognize that judging is a voluntary activity with the only rewards being the satisfaction of a meaningful job well done. The next time you see a group of judges gathered around a showplane on the flightline, remember they're all volunteers, and they deserve our thanks!
We asked several volunteer aircraft judges what they feel are the five most important things a person needs to know before having their aircraft judged at Oshkosh. They include Dave Clark, Vintage Aircraft Association chief judge; Bob Reece, chairman, EAA Judging Standards Committee; David Juckem, vice-chairman of Homebuilt Judging; and Eric Paul, chairman, Warbirds Judging. Here are their tips:
Dave Clark, Vintage Aircraft Association Chief Judge:
Five things to do before having a Vintage Aircraft judged at Oshkosh.
In the vintage judging, the aircraft are judged on the basis of their “authenticity” and the “workmanship” of the restoration of the aircraft. We always tell the aircraft owners that this is the way to accumulate the most points, if that is your goal, however, you restore it the way you like it.
- Plan your research on the authenticity of the aircraft being restored. Find all of the information you can get. Try libraries, old manufacturer's documents and photos, type clubs, etc. Authenticity includes the type and horsepower of the engine originally installed.
- Take the time to get it right the first time…and take the time needed to ensure great workmanship.
- Paint the aircraft in the original colors and color schemes.
- Research the type of hardware (Phillips head screws, Dzus fasteners, "suaging" of cable ends, etc.) and don't mix the platings of hardware.
- Prepare a Presentation Book that documents originality and include photos of the aircraft before, during, and after the restoration. Also, make yourself available to talk with the judges about any questions they may have.
Bob Reece, chairman, EAA Judging Standards Committee:
Bonus tip: Enjoy the convention and have fun!
- Safely get the aircraft to Oshkosh and parked in the area to be judged, ie; homebuilts in the homebuilt area, antiques in the vintage antique area, etc.
- Clean it up. If it's a hanger queen and it shows – deductions will apply.
- Register the plane to be judged at the proper registration area.
- Display the prop card with the green sticker where it can be seen and the judges can get to it.
- Be patient- with 2,500 to 3,000 showplanes, it takes time.
David Juckem, vice-chairman of Homebuilt Judging
Every judge develops his own criteria of what they look at and for. That list may even change over time; the list below is mine for now.
- Safety – We are all about safety of flight when it comes to our aircraft, and that means proper use of hardware, well maintained engines and airframes, using accepted design and build practices and, of course, materials.
- Alignment – Are all the components of the airframe in proper relation to each other? (Example: Do the vertical and horizontal stabilizers form a 90 degree angle?)
- Placards – are the instruments labeled correctly? Does the fuel cap show type and quantity of fuel? etc.
- Craftsmanship – Are the rivets driven properly? Do the rib tapes show attention to detail? Is the fiberglass (where visible) straight and wetted out properly? And are panel lines straight and of equal width?
- Finish – I almost didn't include this one because, while a nice paint job is certainly a pleasure to look at, it is the least important of the things I look at when judging an aircraft.
Eric Paul, Warbirds
- Sign up for judging at the aircraft registration booth anytime. Select one of seven three-hour time slots that are available. The deadline for sign up is 30 minutes prior to the time period you select.
- Bring a photo album and any other information that could help the judges determine the depth of restoration and authenticity.
- Open the aircraft up for the judges by removing or opening he engine cowling(s) and panels, etc.
- Have someone available (owner or a representative) at the aircraft during your selected judging time slot. Warbirds won't judge your aircraft if the owner or a representative isn't present.
- Plan to attend the Warbirds awards dinner Saturday night at the Eagle Hangar. It's a lot of fun and flight suits are welcome. Tickets are available in the Warbirds Headquarters Office.
Finally, it is strongly recommended that
you read the section appropriate to your aircraft in the 49-page EAA
Judging Standards Manual. To view or download the entire manual or just
the section pertaining to your needs, click here.