Aviation's greatest celebration just keeps getting better
The Spirit of Goodyear blimp will return to AirVenture in 2012.
By Dave Higdon
Let's see ... July ... Wisconsin ... the Experimental Aircraft Association ... Oshkosh. For the 60th year, the faithful of all aviation stripes turn their eyes, if not their physical presence, to Wittman Regional Airport and EAA AirVenture.
And AirVenture 2012 continues many traditions started that first year, 1953, when Paul Poberezny, with a group of his friends and fellow pilots, staged a small gathering for their then-fledgling EAA in Milwaukee.
In the six decades since, AirVenture has seen spaceships and global fliers of many types, acres of vintage and golden age aircraft, veterans-both aircraft and human-of multiple combat zones, builders and fliers of some of the world's most advanced experimental aircraft, and millions of visitors, many arriving via the hundreds of thousands of private aircraft that have tied down at the EAA event.
For 2012, EAA is assembling perhaps its most-diverse and exciting collection of airplanes, people, and events ever.
Remembering America's finest
Veterans of World War II form one of AirVenture's core groups again this year, with representatives of the Tuskegee Airmen on hand-and a feature-length film depiction of their combat experiences-alongside the commemoration of America's first offensive against Japan by then-Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle's Raiders in 1942.
The only flying example of the airplane that ended World War II is also present at AirVenture this week: FIFI, the Commemorative Air Force's Boeing B-29.
And this year's show is filled with numerous other commemorations of the greatest generation, plus emphatic nods to the veterans of air combat action in the skies above Korea and Vietnam.
A laboratory for aviation technology
AirVenture also is the world's greatest shopping opportunity for pilots and aircraft owners hoping to find the latest and greatest products that'll help make their flying more enjoyable. Over the decades, AirVenture has showcased many advances in aviation, and this year's EAA gathering offers glimpses into the future as well as looks back to the development of some of today's most-heralded, most-used devices.
For example, Rockwell Collins is highlighting its role in helping develop the global positioning system, that satellite-based area-navigation wonder by which thousands of AirVenture-bound pilots navigated to Oshkosh.
Advances in one of aviation's newest technological tools-automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast, known simply as ADS-B-also are in the spotlight at AirVenture.
The backbone of the Federal Aviation Administration's ambitious Next Generation Air Transportation Control System, NextGen, totally new ADS-B products will be on prominent display, with hands-on demonstrations, thanks to the efforts of several AirVenture exhibitors.
AirVenture is also highlighting advances in robotics, thanks to the return of Honda's humanoid automaton, ASIMO.
And as in the past, AirVenture will also shine a spotlight on other tools for the pilot, from headsets to programs and applications for tablet computers, smartphones, and on to panel-mounted gear for both certificated and experimental aircraft.
Aircraft from simple to advanced
But where to mount and use all the cool new gear you'll see? Not to worry: Vendors also will offer aviators and would-be pilots a place to touch, see, and fly some of today's most-advanced aircraft, both for the homebuilder and the ready-to-fly buyer.
The fledgling experimental-aircraft movement of 1953 helped launch EAA, and today no other venue offers builders and would-be builders the same quality of access to finished kit airplane examples. There simply will be a staggering variety of airframes meeting an equally large number of mission profiles.
Maybe it's a simple piston single for recreational aviating that strikes your fancy. Maybe a speedy turboprop capable of shrinking a continental flight down to a few hours of air time. It's probably something in between; maybe an amphibious LSA or a sexy new all-composite kit. Regardless, if it can be built by the individual, it's probably here at AirVenture.
But AirVenture is equally enmeshed in the world of factory-made, FAA-certified aircraft. Thanks to the efforts of planemakers, the AirVenture audience can get up close and personal with aircraft designs of all types, whether powered by avgas, diesel, or Jet-A fuels, plus the ever-growing field of electric-powered aircraft.
Whether the mission is hauling supplies deep into the bush or hauling the family to the grandparents, it's probably here at AirVenture.
World-class entertainment–in the air, on stage, and on the silver screen
Perhaps the most-known aspect among those who've never attended the EAA gathering is the daily air show. Again for 2012, AirVenture has drawn world-class sky talent.
The list of performers appearing through the week reads like a who's who of airborne entertainers, and the lineup varies day-by-day. So if you don't see your favorite tomorrow, check back; that aerobat is likely on the list for later in the week.
And later in the week is when EAA AirVenture continues the aerial excitement with a world-class night show, complete with fiery flying and a top-of-the-mark fireworks display.
After the daily air show, the nightly programs at the Theater in the Woods bring together a series of events promising standing-room-only attendance. If that's not enough to whet your appetite for evening events, check out the films at the Fly-In Theater every evening through Saturday-each preceded by a celebrity introducer setting the scene for the feature to follow.
Of course, music is also a significant element of AirVenture, with the opening-evening concert by the Steve Miller Band and many other musical events ranging from flying musicians to nationally known bands.
When you come to EAA AirVenture you can count on leaving well-informed, craving some of aviation's newest products and exhausted by the expansive experience.
The subsequent seven editions of AirVenture Today will strive to keep you informed and prepared to make the most of your EAA experience.
Enjoy the week!
DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3;
2015: July 27-Aug. 2