Things started out
soggy at EAA AirVenture, then dried out, warmed up - and cycled
back to sorta soggy at the end. Photo by Tyson V. Rininger
Full circle; from the damp and dank to the
warm sunshine - and back to damp again; but then some sun on the final
The hardy, the faithful, the plain-old
stubborn were rewarded for their perseverance the past nine days that
encompassed EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2010. What began with rain, mud, empty
campgrounds, mall lots crammed with motorhomes, a vacant North 40 ended
with almost two days of great summer weather.
Through the miracles of dedicated
volunteers, patient pilgrims, and the undeterred determination of members,
AirVenture 2010 swung back to normal and fulfilled the majority of its
promise and potential.
As the annual pilgrimage of aviation
aficionados wraps up today, conditions have brought us full circle back to
some of the soggy skies that made the run-up and opening days unique in
the annals of the Experimental Aircraft Association convention.
Even EAA founder Paul Poberezny commented
that he’d never seen the convention face such unconventional conditions.
Many a mass movement of airplanes to
Wittman Regional Airport fell victim to a wicked combination of wet
grounds and intense weather outside the Oshkosh region—blocking their
plans as surely as any physical barrier.
The Max Effort display of historic Douglas
DC-3 and C-47 aircraft—to mark the -3’s 75th birthday—was called;
ditto for a similar commemoration for the 50th anniversary of the Piper
Cherokee, plus the annual mass arrivals of Beech Bonanzas, Cessnas, Piper
Comanches, and others.
But otherwise, the show went on as it has
every year since 1953.
EAA volunteers: Frontline flexibility
Pre-show storms soaked grounds beyond their saturation points,
producing ponding and water run-off in places normally dry—places people
park planes, pitch tents, and park campers.
Thanks to the efforts of volunteers and the
coordination of EAA’s facilities staff, thousands of people and their
hardware were accommodated nearby, in parking lots, fairgrounds, and other
airports, like Fond du Lac, Appleton, and Manitowoc.
These impromptu solutions required support
of their own, from portable toilets and potable water to transportation
and their morning AirVenture Today copies; between the volunteers
and the staff, the jobs got done.
Pumping out and draining and drying and
rolling grounds went on steadily until airplanes and people could return
to places they longed to be: Camp Scholler, Vintage Camping, The Farm, and
the North 40.
While opening day populations of campsites
and parked planes more closely looked like closing day, this scarcity
lived only briefly; the second day saw traffic near normal and the biggest
single-day gate AirVenture ever experienced.
As EAA Chairman/President Tom Poberezny
observed repeatedly—and the EAA Board of Directors specifically
acknowledged—the reversal could not, would not, have happened absent the
selfless, tireless efforts of the volunteers.
“They dug down and pulled together like
never before,” Poberezny observed.
The show we all know…
From the second day on, AirVenture 2010 reflected the show we all
know, the aviation event thousands attend, thousands wish they were
attending, and millions still want to see.
If you covet high-energy aerobatics,
AirVenture 2010 delivered; if low-and-slow better fit your pace, Oshkosh
was still the place.
If ethereally floating across the sky
matched your imagination, a chair lifted by dozens of balloons or a blimp
with engines brought fantasy to your flights of fancy.
Come to shop? Oshkosh was the mall of the
aeronautical, offering for sale nearly every form of private flying and
all the necessary accoutrements—as well as some less necessary but fun
or helpful to have and to hold.
Radios and charting products, navigation
and illumination, powerplants and props, wheels, brakes and tires and
tubes, seat cushions and coolers, magazines and directories and welding
machines, manuals for the workshop and for the learning-to-fly.
Like flavoring your fly-in experience with
the entertainment arts? From film debuts to campground film renewals,
AirVenture offered as much as many a multiplex.
Music more your thing? From the Flying
Musicians barnstorming into venues to marquee names like “Chicago” and
“Lt. Dan” and “Asleep at the Wheel” complemented countless
campsite jam sessions, late-night hangar-flying sessions, and
old-fashioned bull sessions.
People, after all, are the common glue
bonding the aircraft that underpin the AirVenture experience, and the
people never seemed to be as spirit-dampened as the grounds were
rain-dampened—even as the final hours brought back some of the
damp-and-dark that made the opening so unique.
…So until we meet again…
Some compare AirVenture to an annual phoenix rising skyward every year
from the earth of the last show; to others, the AirVenture village is more
akin to the Brigadoon of the musical legend, appearing from the mist each
summer, living its life in the cycle of the air show, and disappearing
into memory until the next time.
And with legends as powerful as AirVenture
Oshkosh, there is always a next time, hopefully drier, sunnier, and closer
to the ideal of our memories.
But if not, the return will still be
memorable, with people and planes and flying that no weather or water can
Safe trips home to all. We’ll see you
back here in 2011.