EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in review
Estimated reading time 8 minutes, 32 seconds.
After a difficult year of pitfalls, isolation and layoffs, the aviation community breathed a sigh of relief when the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) announced it was moving forward with its project. to hold its annual fly-in this year in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Approximately 608,000 people attended the show, with 16,378 flight operations during the 10-day period July 22-31, with an average of 116 take-offs and landings per hour. This is the third time that the EAA has hosted more than 600,000 people, which is a great achievement given the lack of international guests.
Trying to make up for lost time, thousands of pilots flocked to Wittman Regional Airport days before the event – fueling record numbers on the Friday and Saturday before the show started. The atmosphere was electric as old friends kissed to the hum of engines above their heads. Pilots from across North America came together and showed compassion for the challenges of 2020 and made resolutions for the year ahead. A new fire was kindled in the hearts of many participants which replaced a feeling of emptiness and loss from 2020.
“We started this year without knowing what AirVenture would look like and how possible an event was. The aviation community, however, spoke loud and clear – they were ready to come to Oshkosh and we were happy to be able to welcome them, ”said Jack Pelton, CEO and Chairman of EAA. “Our theme was ‘The Wait is Over’, and it was. And the wait was worth it. There was joy and excitement on the pitch, and that set the stage for AirVenture’s return, making us very excited for the future.
The event went off without a hitch, like an organized, well-oiled machine that came to life as if it had never missed a year. Thousands of planes crossed the famous “Fisk Approach” to land at what was then the busiest airfield in the world. Skies The magazine correspondents had the chance to pilot the arrival of the Fisk this year and were surprised by the ease and simplicity of it. Huge gratitude to all the volunteers who cheerfully led the inbound traffic, enthusiastically helped attendees, and were the heart and soul of the whole event.
Although some exhibitors decided not to attend, it was difficult to notice a difference. The fairground was filled with booths, static exhibits, and interactive exhibits. The seminars followed one another in the pavilions with dozens of participants; each day the crowd grew more than the last. A noticeable increase in attendance could be seen at the Show Center, where thousands of people set up their seats and waited for the air show which started at 2:30 p.m. daily.
This year’s airshow artists included Jeff Boerboon in his Yak-110, Kevin Coleman in his Extra 300 SHP, Patty Wagstaff in his Extra 330LX, Matt Younkin in his Twin Beech 18, the Aeroshell Aerobatic team, the demonstration F-16 Viper, Red Bull Air Force, and many more. The Goodyear airship flew overhead all week and even had its own air show where it displayed unusual attitudes for the crowds below.
Another event that attracted a lot of attention was the STOL Invitational, which took place at Ultralight Field, where a dozen highly modified bush planes demonstrated their capabilities. For those who thought the STOL trend had plateaued, think again. The crowd had at least tripled in size since 2019, and the excitement around Mike Patey’s Carbon Cub, “Scrappy,” has shown that non-airport flights are going nowhere. Top contenders for the STOL Invitational included Steve Henry in his Highlander and Canadian Jason Busat in his Rans Coyote – both highly modified, with a combined take-off and landing between 90 and 125 feet.
It wouldn’t be an “AirVenture” without bad weather. The event’s famous nickname, “Sloshkosh,” evolved to also include buzzwords like “Planenado” and “Night at the Museum,” after a severe storm swept through the state on Wednesday night. The severe weather warning has been issued for southeastern Wisconsin, forecasting winds of 95 miles per hour, hail and possible tornadoes. Thousands of planes left early in search of shelter at airfields outside the line of fire, while those that remained reinforced their tethers and wrapped their planes in cardboard, cling film, foam memory foam and even mattresses.
The sky darkened and the evenings calmed down as the threatening storm approached. Two thousand people were evacuated to the EAA Aviation Museum, where they sought refuge in the basement and prayed that the storm would leave them and their plane unscathed. As the storm approached – and bad weather alerts rang out on every cell phone – everyone braced for the worst and whispered the words, “These are just planes. The ground shook and the sky rumbled as the storm passed overhead. All that could be seen was the twinkling of lightning through the skylights above.
At least five tornadoes touched southeastern Wisconsin that morning. The storm caused the most damage just 60 nautical miles south of the airfield; a sigh of relief could be heard from the EAA and its organizers as hundreds of irreplaceable planes were left unscathed.
Other AirVenture highlights include the growing presence of eVTOL classified aircraft. Volocopter made its first American demonstration in the field, and BlackFly showed the crowds that anything is possible as its uniquely designed aircraft took off. Towards the end of the week, there was a large military presence on Boeing Plaza, where static displays included a V-22 Osprey and many other types.
As hundreds of thousands of attendees began their return journey, EAA began planning for next year’s show. Kudos to the event organizers for putting on such a fantastic event. We look forward to the 69th EAA fly-in next year.