AirVenture’s best-kept secret

July 30, 2010

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What’s the best-kept secret at EAA AirVenture? Many Oshkosh veterans will tell you that it’s the AirVenture seaplane base, nestled in a picturesque wooded cove on the west side of Lake Winnebago a few miles south of Oshkosh, Wis.

For those who make the journey, the seaplane base’s relaxed atmosphere and slower pace provide a welcome respite from AirVenture's hustle and bustle. From dawn until dusk, you will find people sitting along the shore—on the base’s few benches or in folding chairs—watching the airplanes come and go.

Want a closer look at the activity? You can tour the mooring area aboard a pontoon boat. Food and drink are available on site, although camping at the base is limited to seaplane pilots and their immediate family.

There’s a lot to see; the seaplane base regularly sees upward of 100 registered aircraft during AirVenture, and many of them do some local flying during their visits. In addition, manufacturers perform demonstration flights of seaplanes ranging from the Icon A5 amphibious light sport aircraft to the turbine-powered Quest Kodiak on amphibious floats.

The base is a hub of social activities for the seaplane community during AirVenture. The FAA presents daily safety seminars. A Friday-night fish fry is popular, and so is the Saturday-evening watermelon social (don’t let the name fool you; the menu also includes pulled pork sandwiches and all the fixins’).

Unless you have a seaplane, the easiest way to visit the seaplane base is by bus from the AirVenture grounds. The round-trip ride will cost you $3. And if you miss the seaplane base during AirVenture, then you’ve missed it—during the other 51 weeks of the year, the privately owned property is not open for seaplane use.