AirVenture 2017 set records in almost every category, with the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) reporting 5% more people and planes than last year.
“What an incredible year it was for Oshkosh,” said EAA Chairman Jack Pelton. “From the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the Apollo reunion to new aviation innovations on display and two B-29s flying formation as part of 75 years of bombers on parade, it was a week filled with ‘Only at Oshkosh’ moments.
Pelton concluded that it was the best AirVenture week he’s ever seen and, having attended almost every year since 1980, I agree.
Here are a few of the highlights from looking in my rear view mirror:
As a fan of World War II aircraft, I’m first drawn to the warbird area at the north end of the flight line. This year, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, there were over a dozen B-25 bombers parked in close formation like they were on the deck of the Hornet aircraft carrier prior to takeoff on the dangerous mission.
A Warbirds in Review program on the Doolittle Raid included a first-hand account by 101-year-old Dick Cole, Doolittle’s co-pilot and sole surviving participant.
The narrated Warbird Tram Tour, a free service operated by volunteers, was an efficient and welcome way to see the wide variety of warbirds without getting worn out from walking around the large parking area.
The highlight of the week for me was seeing two B-29s fly overhead in formation for the first time in more than 50 years, with the freshly-restored and highly-polished “Doc” joining AirVenture regular FIFI.
Fun Fly Zone
In previous years I missed a lot of the fun at the Ultralight area located at the south end of the flight line, with activities scheduled there each evening that draw large crowds.
Now called The Fun Fly Zone, the grass “airport within an airport” hosts demo flights following the afternoon air shows by various models of ultralight, Light Sport and rotor wing aircraft.
Then, as the sun starts to set and the winds calm, the invitational STOL takeoff and landing demonstration started, complete with expert narration.
The demos were hard to see when originally held on the main runway during the afternoon air show, but the Ultralight airstrip, which includes grandstand seating, provides a perfect up-close perspective.
As the evening progressed, other attractions included an aerobatic demonstration of large-scale remote-controlled model aircraft flown by expert pilots, plus a hot air balloon glow.
The mention of remote-controlled aircraft reminds me that drones have a growing presence at AirVenture, with a large drone cage and obstacle course located in a relatively-new area called the Aviation Gateway Park. I walked by numerous times during the week and never had time to stop in, but it’s on my to-do list for 2018.
As far as I’m concerned, the new Scout ADS-B receiver was the “hot item” this year in the exhibit halls at AirVenture.
Designed to deliver free weather and traffic to ForeFlight running on an iPad, the diminutive device is priced at only $199. I bought one and like it.
With too many things for one person to see, I also missed the Theater in the Woods reunion of seven Apollo astronauts on Friday night of AirVenture week. The event marked the 50th anniversary of the historic space program.
Other anniversaries celebrated this year included:
- Hartzell Propeller: 100 years
- J-3 Cub: 80 years
- Whitman Buttercup: 80 years
- B-29: 75 years
- Cessna 190/195: 70 years
- Rotorway Helicopters: 50 years
- Christen Eagle: 40 years
- Questair Venture: 30 years
- WomenVenture: 10 years
Women in Aviation
Peggy Chabrian, founder of Women in Aviation International and one of my original flight and ground school instructors in Chattanooga 35 years ago, invited me to attend the annual WAI breakfast, which attracted more than 300 enthusiastic women. Since my young granddaughters are interested in aviation, I’m glad to know there’s an organization where they can plug in some day soon.
With tremendous corporate support from the aviation industry, WAI has awarded millions of dollars in scholarships to aspiring women aviators through the years.
More than 1,000 forums, workshops and presentations are offered at AirVenture each year and I always try to attend several. No one offers more forums than aviation maintenance guru Mike Busch, who is probably the best-known A&P/IA in general aviation. As a volunteer presenter each year during AirVenture, he offers around a dozen interesting programs on various aircraft maintenance and engine operation subjects.
Following Busch’s example with seven forums was Master Instructor Gary Reeves, who founded PilotSafety.org several years ago to reach a larger audience through producing training videos and speaking at aviation events across the country. I attended his informative and entertaining forum, “IFR Made Easy,” a subject that attracted a large crowd.
In addition to speaking for free, Reeves is giving back to the aviation community by offering $750 scholarships to participants in the FAA’s Wings program who are seeking an additional rating. Writing a 500-word essay is all it takes to apply.
Bonanza, Mooney and Cessna owners have been coordinating mass arrivals for years so they can camp together, but this was the first time I had seen a large swarm of powered paragliders arrive all at once and land on the Ultralight strip.
It’s the People
As EAA founder Paul Poberezny was fond of saying, AirVenture Oshkosh is more about people than planes and I’ve certainly found that to be true over the years. I’ve equated the EAA experience to joining a large church and then finding a Sunday School class or small group to fellowship with.
As an example, I was invited to join an EAA chapter from Cincinnati for a steak dinner in Camp Scholler one evening and it was fun to see how everyone camps together and shares the evening meal while telling tales of what they had seen that day.
Only in Oshkosh
There were numerous other “only in Oshkosh” moments during the week … and way too many to relate here. Suffice it to say that EAA has truly taken the event to another level.
Maybe it was just the fortunate combination of the Blue Angels, BasicMed passage, a stable econom,y and good weather, but I think the numerous records set during the 65th year of the fly-in convention bode well for the future.
Hope to see you there next year, July 23-29, 2018.