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EAA chief expects record crowdEAA chief expects record crowd

Experimental Aircraft Association Chairman and CEO Jack Pelton said on the first day of EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, that attendance at the weeklong event is on a pace to surpass last year’s record.

EAA President Jack Pelton, left, holds a replica of the Collier Award presented to him by 2018 Collier Award winner and Cirrus Aircraft co-founder Dale Klapmeier during a pilot social at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, July 22, 2018. Pelton said the replica trophy will be on display at EAA's museum. Photo by David Tulis.

Bad weather kept fly-in arrivals down on Friday and Saturday before the official start of the event. But more than 3,000 aircraft landed at Whitman Field in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on a sometimes-chaotic Sunday afternoon, and another 2,000 touched down on Monday, opening day.

"We were nervous Friday, Saturday, and half of Sunday," Pelton said. "The forecast for the rest of the week looks excellent."

Pelton touched on many themes and advocacy issues during a 30-minute press conference on July 23, and he said he anticipates the threat of air traffic control privatization and FAA user fees will be banished as soon as this week. The U.S. Senate is considering a five-year FAA reauthorization bill that excludes ATC privatization and user fees—controversial measures that most aviation groups, including AOPA, strongly oppose.

Pelton said EAA and other aviation organizations are making progress with the FAA on removing "arbitrary weight limits" from the light sport aircraft (LSA) category. LSAs are currently limited to 1,320 pounds max gross weight, and that excludes proven trainers such as Cessna 150s and 152s. The FAA is considering evaluating LSAs based on “characteristics,” Pelton said, instead of hard weight limits.

"The FAA is wide open to improving (LSA regulations)," he said. "They get it."

The EAA is marking other aviation milestones this year such as the centennial of the Royal Air Force, the eightieth anniversary of the North American T–6 “Texan,” and the 10,000th Van's Aircraft RV to be completed from a kit and flown.

Pelton said a "swarmette" of drones is scheduled to open the night airshow, and the drone display will be an AirVenture first.

Organizationally, Pelton said EAA is strengthening membership chapters, starting “arm’s length” flying clubs, and creating a "virtual flight academy" in which people—primarily young people—can learn flying skills via Microsoft Flight Simulator.

"We’re all about growing the pilot population and participation," he said.

Dave Hirschman

Dave Hirschman

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.
Topics: EAA AirVenture, Travel

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