As the last of the airshow performers flew over Wittman Regional Airport, Experimental Aircraft Association Chairman Jack Pelton pronounced the week of all things aviation a huge success during his EAA AirVenture 2015 closing day comments July 26.
“It’s been a tremendous week, an absolutely incredible week with perfect weather,” he said. “It really felt like we were getting back to our culture and back to our community family.”
Among the highlights for the more than 553,000 visitors venturing to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Pelton said the Airbus A350XWB “offered some tremendous hospitality” during its Boeing Plaza stop and “the F-35, the B-52, and the F-100 Super Saber brought me back to my childhood.”
Pelton said that offering something for everyone played a key part in the airshow’s success in 2015, with numbers that closely matched 2005 attendance 10 years ago. “We started out the week breaking records. It clearly tapered off on Friday for the Milwaukee airshow, but if you look at 2015 it was the highest attended show since what we believe was 2005,” he said.
There were more options for families, students, and nonpilots as well, with a nod toward diversity of events, entertainment options, and age representation. He said that even the simple things like clean bathrooms with built-in hand sanitizer dispensers seemed to please attendees. For a younger generation of potential pilots, Pelton said the college park area was a highlight and EAA would continue to build on that relationship.
Pelton said there are challenges, however. Chief among them is the sheer number of things to do and places to go, which could very well bewilder some attendees, he said. “There’s sensory overload every day in some form or fashion,” he said.
Pelton gave a nod of thanks to the FAA air traffic controllers and the way they handled more than 16,000 aircraft movements for the week, which put Wittman Airport right up there with Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, according to some of the controllers Pelton spoke to.
Also earlier in the week, a Piper Malibu crashed while landing, injuring all five on board. Pelton stressed that first responder crews were well-trained in the event of any emergency. “Each accident has its own unique circumstances. We’ll address what we can and look at our safety response and make sure it’s as tight as we can make it,” he said, noting that ground crews quickly brought the scene under control. “We feel that we probably prevented some fatalities.” A news report said that one person was still in critical condition as of July 24. The NTSB, which was on site for the airshow, is still investigating the accident.
When asked about folding the IMC Clubs into EAA’s chapter structure that was announced earlier at AirVenture, Pelton said he was excited about the new possibilities awaiting both groups. “They will be part of the EAA and we are working on the integration,” he said. “We have good capability for expanding and we have a built-in delivery method with over 900 chapters.We’re really excited about it.” Pelton said he hopes to bring the instrument discussions and “what if” scenarios made popular by IMC Clubs to the VFR pilot population, too.
Pelton said camping was up 4.3 percent, and there were more than 800 exhibitors on the grounds in 2015. EAA is already planning next year’s AirVenture with highlights to possibly include Boeing’s 100th anniversary, the Van's homebuilt RV-6 line celebrating its fortieth birthday, and the F-16 Fighting Falcons, as possible draws.