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.
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.
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.