August 10, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
The Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture 2011 is a wrap—and from the tarmac and the tributes to the teeming crowds, organizers are pronouncing this year’s event a big success.
Organizers nailed their estimates of expected attendance, announcing an actual figure of 541,000, for an increase of about 1.4 percent over 2010. Big daily draws also met expectations, especially opening day on July 25, with Friday, July 29 coming close to setting a new record.
AirVenture’s superb Saturday lineup and night airshow also were big crowd pleasers. “Only some rainy weather in the middle of the week prevented the increase from being even greater," said EAA President and CEO Rod Hightower in a news release.
More than 10,000 aircraft arrived at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh and at other east-central Wisconsin airports for AirVenture.
Some 2,522 show planes participated—up 142 aircraft from 2010. Of that number, there were 974 homebuilt aircraft, 899 vintage airplanes, 367 warbirds, 94 ultralights, 92 seaplanes, 36 aerobatic aircraft, 30 rotorcraft, and 30 categorized as miscellaneous, EAA said.
Commercial exhibitors numbered 803, up from 777. Registered visitors included 2,098 international guests from 68 nations, including a top three of Canada (551); Australia (297); and Brazil (257).
Some 861 media representatives from five continents worked on-site.
Oshkosh wouldn’t be Oshkosh if what was new, and what was making news in aviation were not front and center to delight and surprise the gallery—and this year was no exception.
“You could sense the enthusiasm for aviation and the future of flight throughout the AirVenture grounds," Hightower said.
In the world of aviation you never know what amazing airborne apparatus out of a history book, or marvelous modern machine will fly in as you stand, transfixed. No better example could be found than the arrival from Seattle of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.
Tough act to follow? Not if you park the futuristic flying machine tail-to-tail with Fifi, the only flying example of a World War II-era B-29 in the world, then open up the newcomer for tours.
Master show pilot and beloved aviation figure Bob Hoover received an EAA tribute, and he shared some tidbits from his storied flying career during an AirVenture news conference. ( Read Alton K. Marsh’s article and learn how Hoover kicked airsickness, overcame military red tape, and indulged in other highly personalized methods of problem solving.)
Some of the biggest stars on the airshow scene were on—well, above—the scene, and AOPA photographers captured breathtaking moments of beauty in motion in “ Airshow in Photos.”
For those who could not break away from daily life to attend, AOPA Live was on hand to stream videos giving viewers a chance to meet the familiar and the emerging aviation luminaries such as actor and staunch general aviation advocate Harrison Ford, and Patricia Mawuli Nyekodzi, the first female pilot in Ghana, whose aviation story is one of the most engaging you will ever hear.
Her reaction to her first airplane ride? “Right inside me, I thought, that’s where I belong.” She was right.
Headline news came with the July 26 announcement of the retirement of EAA Chairman Tom Poberezny. He had been EAA’s chairman since 2009, and before that had served as its president starting in 1989 on the retirement of his father, Paul, the founder of EAA.
“On behalf of AOPA’s more than 400,000 members, I want to thank Tom and commend him for the work he—like his father before him—has done during five decades at EAA to build it into the incredible organization it is today,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller in Oshkosh.
The buzz about aircraft designer Burt Rutan’s retirement from Scaled Composites mostly morphed into marveling over his last—or anyway, his latest—design.
That would be the BiPod, a hybrid flying car. The all-fiberglass craft has twin-boom fuselages and a 31.8-foot wingspan. In tests it has used both propellers and electric wheel motor for takeoff, with flights conducted in ground effect so far. Don’t throw out that drafting board just yet.
EAA’s Hightower provided a glimpse—color it yellow—of the 2012 show.
“Next year, for the 60th annual EAA fly-in, we'll be honoring Paul and Audrey Poberezny for all that they have done for the aviator community,” he said. “We'll also welcome the iconic Piper Cub on its 75th anniversary. We're encouraging all owners of this legendary airplane to come to Oshkosh and turn the field yellow.
“We are going to be hosting a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen, inviting all surviving members of this renowned World War II unit to join us at AirVenture,” he said. The event will also recognize Van's Aircraft founder Dick VanGrunsven. The RV series of aircraft have become “the most popular homebuilt aircraft kits in the world,” Hightower said.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.
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