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Full Circle: AirVenture ends with sun and good ‘ol airplane noise
By Dave Higdon
 

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 day. 

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 overcome.

Safe trips home to all. We’ll see you back here in 2011.

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