|(photo by Michael Steineke)
By Ric Reynolds
August 4, 2013 - When EAA Chairman Jack Pelton took to the podium for his annual wrap-up press conference Sunday, he listed the seven key objectives EAA had heading into this year. And he was pleased to say all were accomplished.
"One, to have a safe AirVenture, which we accomplished," he said. "Two, to actually have an air show in light of the FAA's issuance of the controllers contract.
"We were able to get to a point where we were able to have an event," he said, but the appeal moves on.
Third objective was to have an event that would be as entertaining as or more entertaining than at an air show that didn't include traditional military entertainment. "Most of you will agree we exceeded that expectation," Jack stated.
Four: Provide a better experience for the attendees. "We improved the grounds, included more crowd-friendly flush restroom facilities. We looked very hard at the food, aiming to provide more variety and diversity with better pricing, and I think we hit that one on the head very effectively.
"We wanted to come away with the overall feeling that would bring people back next year, and we feel objective No. 4 has been achieved."
Five: Provide more transparency for our members. EAA moved the annual meeting up to Wednesday, made it more inviting for members to attend, and communicated the direction EAA is going, where it is financially, and where money is being spent so members will feel there is much more transparency in the organization.
EAA AirVenture 2013 Facts and Figures
Attendance: More than 500,000 in total estimated attendance - comparable to 2012
Total aircraft: More than 10,000 aircraft arriving at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh and other airports in east-central Wisconsin.
Total showplanes: 2,335, including 867 homebuilt aircraft, 858 vintage airplanes, 337 warbirds, 130 ultralights, 92 seaplanes, 27 aerobatic aircraft, and 24 miscellaneous showplanes.
Commercial exhibitors: 821 (record total)
International visitors registered: 2,115 visitors registered from 64 nations, with Canada (562 visitors), Australia (257), and South Africa (187) the top three nations. (Note: This total includes only non-U.S. visitors who registered at the International Visitors Tent, so the actual international contingent is undoubtedly larger.)
Media: 914 media representatives on-site, from five continents.
Pelton also noted three great additions to the board, Jim Clark, Alan Klapmeier, and Cody Welch - all longtime members of EAA, "All who understand the core mission of EAA."
Six: Regain the confidence of EAA's volunteers. "Last year we felt we took a big step backwards in losing the confidence of our volunteers by the way that we inappropriately may have not made them feel welcome, that they were feeling distanced from the organization, and they really didn't feel like they were part of the family," Pelton explained. "We worked really hard over nine months with monthly phone calls to the volunteer chairmen, talking to them frequently about what was going on, what was changing , and wanting them to be a part of it."
The volunteer corps was 20 percent stronger in numbers - some 4,800 this year - and feedback shows they are more engaged and revitalized, Pelton noted.
Pelton's final objective was to stabilize the EAA staff. "I won't grade myself on that, but we were able to meet the objective, bringing back some key people like (vice president of marketing and communications Rick Larsen and (communities director) Charlie Becker, have a better working group.
"I couldn't be more proud of the leadership team and feel very confident that if I don't get in their way they'll be able to continue to improve this every year over year."
As for the numbers, a record 821 exhibitors were here - most reporting they are very pleased with the quality of commerce, many even talking of record sales numbers this year.
EAA annually expects attendance of about a half million visitors or more each year, and Pelton reported that was achieved, but said final numbers will be released over the coming days.
He added some thoughts about the Disney Planes special preview Friday night: "I truly believed that the movie would have an impact on bringing youth into aviation, which is part of the core mission Disney wasn't sure as they had never been here, were not sure what the venue was like. We assured them if they wanted to launch a movie about airplanes this was the pace to do it."
The result: Record crowds at the Ford Fly-In Theater - 15,000 people - which is triple the previous high attendance there. "Disney was so excited that they announced that Planes 2 is already in the works," Pelton said.
Next year Oshkosh will honor the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, endeavor to build an airplane in seven days, and also celebrate the 75th anniversary of the jet engine. Other features wand attractions will be announced in the coming months, weeks, and days...which is 358 if you're counting.