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Events: The greatest airshow on EarthThe greatest airshow on Earth

Oh, AirVenture, how we will miss you this year

It’s a rite of passage for pilots: the annual EAA AirVenture airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. And a worldwide pandemic is the only thing that could bring it down. We will miss so much this year, but, hey, we’re pilots, and the show will go on in 2021! Our editors reflect on the Oshkosh that will not be (and the number of years they’ve attended):
Pilot Briefing July 2020

Photography by David Tulis

“I will miss Goofy Hat Guy. I call him that because I don’t know his real name, and because he wears a goofy hat every day of AirVenture while he’s at his post volunteering. He’s usually directing traffic at a busy intersection near the collegiate display and the air traffic control tower. Sometimes he’s wearing a Santa hat, sometimes a Cat-in-the-Hat hat; you never know. I will miss Goofy Hat Guy because he represents the spirit of all EAA volunteers—hard-working but enjoying every minute of their time on the grounds, and making sure the show is as great as it can be for all of its visitors.”  —Jill W. Tallman (more than 15 years)

“I’ll most miss the evening tradition of catching up with friends in the industry over a beer and a meal, at quintessential Oshkosh eateries like Jansen’s Bar and Restaurant and Dublin’s Irish Pub. While I worry about friends, I also hope these small businesses can survive the pandemic. Years ago, I was crushed after landing at Appleton to learn that the Hobnobbin restaurant—long an Oshkosh tradition for me—had closed.” —Mike Collins (more than 20 years)

“On the occasion of my first Oshkosh in 1998, I was warned of the weather and over the years I have been: the hottest, the coldest, the wettest, the most windblown, and the most in awe. There was a thunderstorm one year that was the most majestic light show in the sky I have ever, to this date, seen. I will miss the schizophrenic Wisconsin weather.” —Julie Summers Walker (not quite 10 years)

“I will miss the $8 brats. And the ability to wander around in the warbird or experimental or classic areas and feel the pride and camaraderie of those whose work and passion are on display.” —Thomas B. Haines (30-plus years)

“My parents were the first in our family to attend, in the 1970s in a Rutan-designed VariEze they built in our California garage. Later, my brothers and our spouses, each involved in separate aspects of aviation—airline, military, and sport—convened in Oshkosh because the place had something for all of us. I’ll miss that AirVenture reconnects me to pilots from distant places, and times. Paul Poberezny, EAA founder, famously said that his long involvement with flying taught him more about people than airplanes. AirVenture is more about friendships than aircraft, although the aircraft are pretty slick, too.” —Dave Hirschman (25 years)

“I’ll miss the long, velvety evenings. Sunsets over the lake while at the seaplane base or sipping a beer with friends on the grounds after the crowds have left. OSH always sticks with me as the very essence of summer and flying.” —Ian J. Twombly (14 years; the first time at age 12)

“I’ll miss camping on the flight line with my son under the wing of our airplane. At night, the air in the tent is either hot and sticky after a brutally sunny day, or cool and damp after an evening thunderstorm. But the morning is always glorious regardless of the weather. The sun is up at 5:30 a.m. and I can’t wait to grab a cup of coffee and enjoy the morning ritual. Precisely at 6 a.m., the airshow loudspeakers crackle to life and a yodeler belts out a familiar call followed by a recorded startup of a radial engine. If that hasn’t woken up my son—and it rarely does—the takeoff and flyover of six World War II warbirds usually does the trick. What aviator can resist unzipping the tent window to peek skyward and determine which aircraft are saying ‘good morning?’” —Kollin Stagnito (30 years)

“After we land and open the door, the aroma of 100LL hits, something that never gets old for me. If you follow the smell, you’ll find yourself in the warbirds area next to a gleaming B–25 taxiing on the grass. Only at Oshkosh can you see such a sight! During the airshow you can rest under the wing of an A–26 and enjoy the sounds of pistons and jets. It’s a shame I’ll have to wait another year.” —17-year-old Anthony Stagnito (17 years)

What will you miss?

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