Innovation and Inspiration, Oshkosh Invigorates Aviation Community

August 14, 2013

I recently returned from my thirteenth AirVenture in a row but, in many ways, this one was a whole new experience.  The previous twelve times, I’d attended the event while being a resident of the city of Oshkosh.  During the big event, my airplane would stay firmly on the ground while the rest of the aviation world came to town.   But, having moved out to Maryland to work for AOPA, this was my first chance to make the flying pilgrimage to Oshkosh.  

My clipped wing J-3 Cub can only manage short legs of about 120 miles, so this meant there were five fuel stops in each direction.   It was interesting to see how the world of aviation comes to life for Oshkosh, at every single airport I met at least one other pilot and aircraft traveling to or from Wisconsin.

Flying the famous Fisk arrival into Oshkosh was fun, it’s something that every pilot should aim to do at least once in their life.  The NOTAM is easy to follow and the controllers do a superb job, especially in keeping everyone relaxed and focused on the #1 job of flying the airplane. 

My personal highlight of AirVenture was the new Innovations Pavilion, which displayed many interesting technologies and ideas under development.   There were planes powered by electricity and compressed natural gas, a set of glasses that incorporated a simple HUD display, airplane parts being made in a 3D printer, and so on.  It may be a good few years before any these things make it into flying clubs, but it was good to see the continued efforts to innovate in aviation.  

Another highpoint was the activities surrounding the launch of the new Disney movie, Planes.  This is a very positive development for aviation.  The immense marketing power of Disney will get more kids excited about airplanes than an organization like AOPA could manage in years of trying.  Good news then, to learn that Disney are actually planning a trilogy of movies in the Planes series.   

Thanks to everyone that attended our first AOPA flying clubs breakfast at Oshkosh.  There were more than 100 people in attendance from flying clubs all around the country and we got a great reaction to the Q&A panel.   Marc Epner of Leading Edge Flying Club, Steve Blonstein of West Valley Flying Club, and Mitch Anderson of Cloud 7 Flying Club did a great job of fielding questions from the floor, giving three different perspectives from three different clubs on topics like insurance, club operations, leasing arrangements and the like.   The only complaint was that we didn’t videotape the panel for repeat viewing, which is something we’ll do next year.

We also received a lot of flying club traffic through the AOPA tent through the week, and were able to speak one on one with lots of member and leaders.   I was particularly impressed with a young 19 year old who briefed me on his plans to set up a new flying club at his college.   He seemed to be looking for my help, but I’m not sure how much he needs it, he had already created one of the most thorough plans for a new club that I’ve ever seen!

As always, Oshkosh was an invigorating week that fully recharged the aviation batteries.  I also returned to the office with a two-inch high stack of business cards to work through.  If one of them is yours and I haven’t followed up yet, I will get to it soon!