|Rod Hightower, EAA President/CEO talks to EAA members about highlights of the past year. Photo by Mike Steineke
Although final numbers aren’t in, Friday’s attendance at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2011 could set a new record, according to EAA’s president and CEO.
After the annual meeting Saturday, Rod Hightower said EAA needs to finish its count to determine if they really set a record, but Friday’s attendance was certainly “one of the biggest days we’ve ever had.”
Hightower attributed the large attendance to perfect weather and big events, such as the arrival and departure of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.
“The public really turned out to see that and enjoyed it tremendously,” he said.
In fact, weather played a big part in the fly-in convention’s success throughout the week.
“The weather this year has really been fabulous,” he said. “We had fabulous weather early in the week and leading up to AirVenture, and while it rained on Wednesday, we were back to having a spectacular weather day yesterday [Friday].”
However, Wednesday’s rain made it clear that the nearly $500,000 in drainage improvements EAA implemented since the 2010 convention were well spent, with everything working flawlessly, Hightower said. “But we still need to address the mud and dust, and we’ll turn our attention to that next.”
A new venue called the EAA Aviators Club was also a huge success with members, selling out online before the convention even started, he said. The Aviators Club allows EAA members to come and enjoy the air show in air-conditioned comfort with some outdoor seating and refreshments served throughout the day.
“The other hit was the Zeppelin,” Hightower said. “It was big news, and as the first time here at AirVenture, people really responded to it.”
The chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board also made her first visit to AirVenture, he said.
Hightower said members are also telling him they are appreciative of the FAA’s presence.
The FAA administrator and his team arrived on Wednesday, and members appreciated they took a stand-up approach and came, despite some difficult situations with funding reauthorization, he said.
Hightower said highlights of his first year included:
- Reconnecting with members and chapters through EAA’s Grassroots Pilot Tours.
- Dealing with issues in the regulatory environment, including the BARR program and ADSB compliance.
- Developing a five-year strategic plan that will help to grow membership.
For the coming year, Hightower said EAA will expand the Young Eagles program to include adults, continue to raise money required to expand programming to create the next generation of aviators, and more.