EAA Chapter to honor aviation legend Steve Wittman

On April 13, Oshkosh’s local EAA Chapter 252 will host a pancake breakfast fly-in to commemorate legendary pilot and aircraft designer S.J. “Steve” Wittman’s 108th birthday. This event is open to the public.

Held at the Wittman Regional Airport (OSH) terminal building, the event, which kicks off at 7:30 a.m., features a breakfast of sausage, eggs, beverages, and all you can eat pancakes. Those attending can fly-in or drive-in. The cost is $6 for adults and $3 for children under the age of 10. Pilots of homebuilt aircraft that are flown in will get a free breakfast.

A real aviation pioneer, Sylvester Joseph Wittman (April 5, 1904-April 27, 1995) received his pilot’s license in 1924 (signed by Orville Wright) and built his first aircraft later that same year. He was born in Byron, Wis., and spent most of his youth in the Byron/Fond du Lac area.

Starting in 1925 he operated his own flying service. He also became a demonstration and test pilot for the Pheasant Aircraft Company, which moved to Fond du lac in 1930. Wittman was active in air racing through most of his aviation career; from the Thompson Trophy Races of the 1930s to the EAA supported Lowers, Baker, Falk efficiency races in the 1980s. In January 1932 he won the Colonel Green Trophy in Florida while racing his own airplane design “Chief Oshkosh.” Upon returning to Oshkosh, an estimated 600 people turned out to great him on his return.

Wittman invented both the flat and tapered rod spring steel landing gear designs, in use today by thousands of certified and amateur built aircraft. In the recreational flying world, his legacy is the “Wittman Tailwind” airplane design, introduced in 1953 as the first FAA/CAA approved two seat amateur built “Experimental” aircraft. Over the years Wittman sold thousands of sets of plans for his enduring design. Plans are still being sold, and refined examples of his original 1953 high performance design continue to be built today.

Wittman spent the remainder of his life in Oshkosh, serving for many years as the operator and manager of Wittman Field, now Wittman Regional Airport. Examples of Wittman built aircraft are on display at the EAA Museum, Wittman Airport terminal, and the National Air & Space Museum.

A presentation about the legendary pilot and aircraft designer, and some of his aircraft designs, will begin at approximately 9 a.m.

As part of the celebration, young people ages 8-17 will have the opportunity to receive a free airplane ride. From 9 to 11 a.m. Chapter 252 will host a Young Eagles Flight Rally, where volunteer pilots will donate their time and aircraft. The rally is part of the EAA Young Eagles program, which was created in 1992 to introduce young people to the aviation adventure, and possibly the start of an aviation career. Their names are entered into the “World’s Largest Logbook,” and they will have the opportunity to continue their aviation experience through additional programs.

For more information: EAA252.org

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