There is no easy way to describe the Airventure experience. For one week, Oshkosh Wisconsin became the hub of general aviation news; innovation and activity and for thousands of people. Total immersion in all things aviation. It would be reason enough to make the trip to see countless airplanes parked by type and in many areas by model. Over 10,000 planes made the trip. Ultralights; Vintage Planes; Warbirds; Experimental; Aerobatic. I’ve seen small airports build a Fly –In Air show around the venerable P-51. At Oshkosh there were at least two dozen of them beautifully restored. There were DC-3’s that blazed the trail for passenger aviation , featured prominently in Gann’s “Fate is the Hunter”. I admired a Beech Staggerwing (below), “Executive Air travel” of it’s era while a Lancaster Bomber lumbered overhead. As I walked by a line of radial engine Cessna 195’s, a Globe Swift made ready for departure. Displays of new aircraft, engines and avionics dotted the landscape with thousands of folks meandering from one exhibit to the next. A delightful sensory overload with scheduled activities, speakers and events, about ten per hour, for most of the week.
Aeroshell square had some unique machines. The Airbus A380 was open for tours of the cabin. The Erikson Skycrane looked anything but aerodynamic, but could carry 2,650 gallons of water. The Composite White Knight II sparkled nearby, built for passenger suborbital space travel. While it looks like a two ship formation flying really close it’s one plane. It will hold Spaceship II under the middle wing along with lucky passengers who can afford the $200,000 ticket. (No word yet on coach fares) .
Before long it was time for the daily airshow which featured the very best aerobatic pilots in the world. Sean Tucker, Patty Wagstaff; Mike Goulian, Kirby Chambliss. We watched the A380 rotate, 1.2 million pounds, before it hit the 5,000 foot mark. It created a dust cloud on take off.Other large aircraft thundered in including a C-17 Globemaster and C-5 Galaxy. There were two teams of wing walkers. I was especially impressed by the Kyle and Amanda Franklin, a husband / wife team that staged a swordfight in midair. I watched dumbfounded as the Chuck Aaron and the BO-105 Red Bull helicopter performed aerobatics. Who knew a helo could do loops and rolls?
Orange County Choppers, Paul Teutul Sr. attemped to race Greg Poe’s MX-2 but knew he was outmatched from the beginning . He was lost in the airplanes smoke half way down the runway. Although Teutul has star power, the real stars that stole the show were the warbirds. A flight of T-6 and T-28 warbirds as well as P51’2 flying formation. They were joined by flights of L-39 and T-2 jets as well as bombers and other WWII aircraft.
Everyone knew this was something special.Rare planes were commonplace. Even the most famous planes had to wait in line like everyone else.
Many predicted this year’s AirVenture attendance numbers would be way down. But those pessimistic prognosticators were wrong. Turnout far exceeded expectations hitting 578,000, a 12 percent increase over 2008.
Despite massive cutbacks in commercial, general and military aviation, this was a celebration of flying, an aviation Disneyland. It was the kind of thing that made us all a little more optimistic that investments were being made in new technology and the there was a bright future ahead for general aviation.
I can’t wait until Airventure 2010.
Photos by Tom Densmore
Thanks to Lex-a great video summary as well.