The names flew around on the strangest beginning to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh since long before it acquired the three-name title EAA prefers these days. Known to legions of visitors and exhibitors as Oshkosh, the summer celebration of flight generated some new variations this year. I heard “Sploshkosh,” “Washkosh,” and “Sloshkosh,” and I’m sure more colorful variations were mentioned around soggy campfire gatherings across the grounds. EAA says attendance was only down about 7% and that’s not bad — not bad at all considering the sloppy start.
Most folks enter the grounds at the northwest corner, where you turn off US 41 and get in line with long lines of cars full of aviation enthusiasts. For decades those attendees have been able to gaze down either side of runway 9/27 and see more than 2,000 aircraft parked with clusters of camper tents alongside or draped from the wings. This year, on the night before opening, I counted…none, zero, nada, zip. That’s right. Not one single airplane was parked where literally thousands are usually located. What a monster 11th-hour challenge to relocate all those airplane — not even mentioning parking thousands of motorhomes and camper trailers in lots all around town as the campgrounds were too wet to allow heavy vehicles to enter. Fortunately, it got a lot better as the week continued.
Sunny skies dried out the sodden turf and airplanes eventually got parked. And the show roared on like it has for more than 50 years. By the end, the Light-Sport Aircraft producers reported between 12 and 15 sales at the event (with a sale defined by the receipt of a substantial multi-thousand dollar deposit). By most measures, that is a good performance and perhaps double to triple that number could follow in the weeks ahead from those who needed to go home and check finances before taking the plunge on a new aircraft.
The aviation industry is nowhere near the wonder years of 2006 and 2007, but life appears to be returning. LAMA’s LSA Mall — just 500 paces from the main gate to the northeast down the new James Ray paved road — was full to the brim with top-selling LSA models. And though some vendors had to conserve cash this year, those in attendance found good traffic and plenty of sales leads. Tired smiles were the norm as we all packed up and departed for another year.