|Vintage planes lined up on display at AirVenture. Photo by Chris Miller
AirVenture is, in reality, a combination of little fly-ins within the larger fly-in. From warbirds on the north end to ultralights and light planes at the south end of the field - and the homebuilt, vintage, and aerobatic folks tucked in between - each community has its own special programs and activities specific to its aviation passion. We checked in with some of these communities to find out what was special to them about AirVenture.
The Warbirds of America (WOA) welcomed 367 aircraft to its compound. Rick Siegfried, president of the WOA, called AirVenture 2011 a “fantastic year.” He continued, “The aircraft were fabulous; the quality and detail of the restorations were stunning. The Warbirds in Review program is becoming a key part of our offerings. We had ‘sellout’ crowds at nearly every presentation. It’s a great way to engage our visitors and help them learn about warbird aircraft.” Along that line, the WOA had a new offering this year: They provided free hourly tram rides through the area, with knowledgeable tour guides providing details about the various aircraft on display. “It’s another way for us to share information about many more aircraft, and our visitors seemed to love it,” Siegfried said.
Just down the field from the WOA, the homebuilt community counted 975 individual homebuilts on the field through Sunday morning. Obvious highlights of the week for that community were the Tribute to Burt Rutan and the honoring of Chris Heintz for his many kit designs over the years.
Some 75 Rutan-designed aircraft graced the field, with the StarShip, Boomerang, and Catbird highlighting that group, while Heintz Zenith Aircraft models numbered a little more than 40.
But it’s obvious homebuilders come to Oshkosh to learn, said Charlie Becker, EAA director of member services. Becker reported that attendance at the live Hints for Homebuilders presentations in the Homebuilders’ Hangar, supported by Aircraft Spruce and Specialty, was impressive. “From early in the morning on, people were coming to listen and learn,” he said. In the Workshops area, seven different workshops attracted more than 7,000 attendees.
Homebuilders were here to socialize as well. Becker noted that the Homebuilders Corn Roast and the Homebuilders Dinner, at which Chris Heintz was honored, were well-attended. EAA Founder Paul Poberezny addressed that group, to the delight of all in attendance.
The International Aerobatic Club (IAC) corral brought together 38 different aerobatic aircraft, with the Dall-Air Snap, a light-sport aircraft, making its debut. The late former IAC President Vicki Cruse was honored with a new memorial placed at the entrance to the IAC building. IAC Manager Trish Deimer-Steineke noted that the money for the memorial was raised through IAC members’ donations.
Forums and educational activities were a large part of the IAC’s offerings, too, with forums highlighting topics like flying your first aerobatic contest, starting an aerobatic school, aerobatics in Stearman aircraft, and getting started in aerobatics highlighting the offerings.
In the Vintage area, a display honoring the 100th anniversary of U.S. Air Mail operations was clearly a highlight, with airmail aircraft, an airmail truck, and a replica post office completing the display. Vintage Aircraft Association Executive Director H. G. Frautschy reported that more than 1,000 people mailed postcards from the mock post office.
AirVenture 2011 was also the 75th anniversary of the beautiful Lockheed Electra 12, and three Lockheed 12s were on display.
The Vintage Aircraft Association registered 700 antique, classic, and contemporary aircraft, including 22 past grand champions who returned. For Sky King fans, Song Bird III, the last aircraft used in that popular show, was also on display. The aircraft, a Cessna 310, is owned and cared for by Paul and Valerie Erickson of Novato, California.
In the Vintage Hangar, vintage type clubs had displays and held a number of forums and discussions. And nowhere are volunteers more important than in the Vintage area. Some 500 volunteers donated 20,000 hours of time to make the Vintage area “work.”
And, being the good neighbors they are, the Vintage area was happy to welcome several GA aircraft campers after Wednesday night’s rains rendered some of the GA camping area unsuitable for use. “We were happy to provide place for these folks to park their aircraft so we didn’t have to turn them away from the field and send them to Fond du Lac or Appleton,” Frautschy said.
Down on the Farm, the ultralight and light plane community celebrated with a Salute to the Quicksilver. Likely the most-produced aircraft ever, Quicksilver ultralights have helped train thousands of ultralight and light plane pilots. Carla Larsh, chairman of the Ultralight and Light Plane Advisory Council, reported that more 20 Quicksilvers representing the various models produced were on display.
Perhaps the most popular machine in the area was an electric-powered Lazair displayed by Dale Kremer, the designer of the original Lazair ultralight. A forum about that aircraft drew 140 interested enthusiasts, and crowds gathered to watch each time it flew.
Overall, 112 ultralights and light planes, including trikes and powered parachutes, registered in the area. Each morning one or more hot-air balloons inflated and remained tethered on the field until it was time for the powered parachutes to fly. A planned balloon launch on Saturday morning had to be scrubbed when the predominant winds would have taken the balloonists out over Lake Winnebago - not exactly an ideal landing spot.
And activity was brisk with rotorcraft on the ultralight runway, too. AutoGyro GmbH of Germany introduced its line of autogyros to the U.S. marketplace and helicopters and gyros kept the pattern busy with activity during the rotorcraft flying sessions.
From north to south, there was a lot to see along the flightline. While chairmen and volunteers are tired from the week that seems like a marathon, it’s definitely race worth running every year.