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AirVenture highlighted by celebration, innovationAirVenture highlighted by celebration, innovation

Fiftieth anniversary pays tribute to all of aviationFiftieth anniversary pays tribute to all of aviation

A week of celebration and innovation during EAA AirVenture saw “The World’s Busiest Control Tower” handle another huge flock of general aviation pilots and enthusiasts visiting Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for the fiftieth time.

  • A 1951 Ryan Navion B frames fireworks illuminating the Brown Arch during an airshow finale that commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of EAA AirVenture at Wittman Regional Airport July 27. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Airshow performer Julie Clark flies her Beech T-34 Mentor into the sunset for the last time during EAA AirVenture July 27. The retired Northwest Airlines captain announced her retirement in 2019 after 40 years and 34,000 hours in her logbook. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Airshow performer Julie Clark flies her Beech T-34 Mentor into the sunset for the last time during EAA AirVenture July 27. The retired Northwest Airlines captain announced her retirement in 2019 after 40 years and 34,000 hours in her logbook. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Team AeroShell power their North American T-6 Texans through a purple sunset during EAA AirVenture July 27. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Nathan Hammond sets the sky ablaze in GhostWriter, a de Havilland Chipmunk, during the night airshow at EAA AirVenture July 27. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Gene Soucy lights up the night sky in a pyrotechnics-equipped Grumman Ag Cat during the night airshow July 27. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Framed by a 1951 Ryan Navion B, the Twin Tigers Aerobatic Team lights up the sky above the Brown Arch during a night airshow that commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of EAA AirVenture at Wittman Regional Airport July 27. Photo by David Tulis.

Although the festivities began with six inches of rain that mired vintage aircraft parking spots in mud and pools of water, delayed mass arrivals, and damaged aircraft at nearby Appleton International Airport, the weather soon gave way to sunny skies.

VFR conditions for the remainder of the week attracted pilots of more than 10,000 airplanes, said Experimental Aircraft Association President and CEO Jack Pelton, during closing remarks. He added that more than 2,700 showplanes, 100 seaplanes, and “more than 1,000 total homebuilt aircraft” were on site.

Legendary airshow performer Julie Clark powered her Beech T–34 Mentor into the sunset for the last time at AirVenture during a farewell tour that capped a 40-year airshow career.

Meanwhile, airshow newcomer Jessy Panzer wowed crowds at the flight line during a technically demanding two-ship formation performance with airshow great Sean D. Tucker as part of their high-flying New Team Oracle act. They end their routine with an aerial heart as a shout-out to “the men and women serving our country,” she explained after a demonstration flight in the Oracle Extra 300. “We love what we’re doing, and we love this great country that we live in,” she added.

Airshow performer Jessy Panzer flies the Oracle Extra 300L during an EAA AirVenture demonstration flight July 26. Panzer is an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University graduate and a corporate pilot who teamed up with legendary airshow performer Sean D. Tucker for the 2019 airshow season. Photo by David Tulis.

Panzer, an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University graduate and a corporate and aerobatic pilot, thanked Tucker and other mentors for the opportunities that allow her to represent other young women in aviation. “It takes a lot of hard work, a little break now and then, and a lot of help from your friends, but I hope to be an inspiration to show other girls that you can do it if you stick with it. If you have a goal and you have a dream—and you just make little decisions every day that get you closer to that goal—you will get there eventually,” she said.

The airshow and GA convention locked step with other Americans who celebrated space exploration fifty years after Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Highlights included an evening talk with lunar commander astronaut Mike Collins, 88, who wowed an evening crowd at the Theatre in the Woods during a frank talk that reminisced about his mission to circle the moon in the command module while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took mankind's first steps on the lunar surface.

"If I think back on Apollo 11, I get different emotions. That little sliver of light we have is nothing what it's like when the moon is close. It's bulbous, it almost feels like it's trying to come in your window" on the space ship,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Aerospace engineer Burt Rutan, right, stands next to one of his original designs, the twin-fin VariViggen, which debuted at the airshow in 1972. Rutan has developed dozens of research aircraft during a lengthy aviation design career. Photo by David Tulis.

Aerospace designer Burt Rutan and his brother Dick led a rapt discussion on some of their ground-breaking design concepts during an evening presentation that far exceeded the expected two-hour window. Attendees stayed and asked questions of the two until the wee hours of the morning. Attendee Stan Fetter of Virginia posted on social media that “they shared an incredible inside look at their history...the good, the bad, the hilarious, the terrifying, and everything in between.” Burt Rutan and his famous sideburns were later spotted at the homebuilt parking area near one of his earliest designs, the VariViggen.

The earth shook during multiple passes by modern and vintage military aircraft that included the McDonnell Douglas F–15 Eagle, F/A–18 Hornet, Lockheed Martin's F–22 Raptor and F–35 Lightning, as well as the Fairchild Republic A–10 Thunderbolt. A July 25 formation of 18 North American P–51 Mustangs was expected to be one of the largest gatherings of Mustangs in recent years. A nineteenth P–51 Mustang operated by EAA and still in the restoration process taxied past show center for a runup that proved to be an auditory surprise as the Merlin V–12 engine screamed for release. The event was a tribute to retired U.S. Air Force Col. Bud Anderson, a World War II triple ace.

Crowds swelled around the nosegear-equipped NXCub that CubCrafters debuted earlier in the week, and a small mockup of the EmbraerX electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) passenger aircraft concept attracted attention at the commercial airplane maker’s booth, one example of what aviation holds in store over the next 50 years.

Lycoming unveiled an electronic ignition system, Pipistrel introduced the Alpha Electric trainer with an integrated BendixKing flight deck designed to be intuitive for student pilots, and aerobatic specialist Walter Extra debuted the Extra NG—the first all-composite model by the master aerobatic airplane maker.

Pelton said that FAA air traffic control crews handled 14,500 aircraft movements through nine days, with departures expected “to exceed 15,000 easily after Sunday and Monday’s movements are factored in.”

Redline Airshows perform a two-ship formation during the night airshow at EAA AirVenture July 27. Photo by David Tulis.
David Tulis

David Tulis

Associate Editor Web/ePilot
AOPA Associate Editor Web/ePilot David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a seaplane-rated private pilot who enjoys vintage aircraft, aerobatic flying, and photography.
Topics: EAA AirVenture

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