|Rod Hightower wraps up AirVenture 2011.
Photo by Steve Cukierski
Rod Hightower described his first AirVenture as EAA president and CEO as “a great success” in his wrap-up press conference early Sunday afternoon. He made special mention of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s first public appearance, the long-awaited return of the Commemorative Air Force’s B-29 bomber “FIFI”, salutes to Burt Rutan and Bob Hoover, and the Centennial of Naval Aviation celebration as bringing in large crowds and creating an event that people will be talking about for a long time to come.
“This is the world’s largest GA event, a true aviation homecoming,” he said.
While final attendance figures won’t be available for a few days, Hightower said 2011 was running slightly ahead of last year, and that the number of aircraft was “well over 10,000 – maybe as high as 12,000.” That figure includes about 2,500 showplanes.
Other preliminary numbers showed more than 2,000 international visitors, 800-plus exhibitors – generally reporting robust sales and activities in their exhibits - and nearly 850 registered media representatives.
Hightower thanked the more than 4,800 EAA volunteers, “the folks and their families who made it all possible.”
Previewing 2012 he mentioned EAA would be featuring the 75th anniversary of the Piper Cub with an open invitation to all Cub owners and many features and attractions for the venerable taildragger. Other themes for 2012 will include a salute to Van’s founder Dick VanGrunsven and tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen. (See the 2012 preview here.)
Hightower also said EAA would be looking to improve the visitor experience by working on improved features and attractions, and coming up with improved ways to deal with dust when it’s dry and mud when it rains.
Friday attendance may turn out to be a record, “or very close to it,” Hightower said. That created significant traffic problems, especially on Highway 41, where backups reached as far as 12 miles on some days in both directions. EAA will be working with the state to come up with better ways to move traffic, he said.