Big jets a no-show at AirVenture

August 1, 2013

Yves Rossy, the Breitling-sponsored Jetman, supplied turbine thrills on a smaller scale in the absence of a military presence at EAA AirVenture. Mike Shore photo, courtesy Breitling

Nothing captures the imagination of airshow spectators like a fast, ear-busting military act. Whether it’s the Air Force’s Thunderbirds or a solo F-15 doing a vertical climb after takeoff, a high-performance jet is a tough act to beat. But visitors to AirVenture this year are, like other airshow spectators all over the country, going without their dose of power, thanks to the federal government’s budget-cutting sequestration process.

Although military acts have never been a central part of the AirVenture experience, their presence have always been strong in Phillips 66 Plaza (nee Aeroshell square). The big tails, as EAA staffers call them, have been replaced with privately owned warbirds and modern manufacturer offerings, such as the Quest Kodiak. EAA Senior Communications Advisor Dick Knapinski said the association’s goal was to fill the gap with new and unique displays. “You kind of reformulate the airshow,” he said.

Some of the changes include traditional GA civilian acts that otherwise wouldn’t have had a slot to perform, and a demonstration from the only civilian Harrier in the world.

The cuts are particularly painful this year because EAA was on track to bring the Thunderbirds to Oshkosh for the first time. “We were on the T-birds preliminary schedule in December,” Knapinski said. Soon after sequestration went in to effect, they knew it wasn’t going to happen, and started working to fill the gaps.

And when the gaps are filled with acts like Jetman, maybe a “regular” jet isn’t as impressive.

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly | "Flight Training" Editor

Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.