The AirVenture expo in Oshkosh, Wisconsin bills itself as the World’s Biggest Aviation Celebration. This year the show has taken some hits but over the…
The AirVenture expo in Oshkosh, Wisconsin bills itself as the World’s Biggest Aviation Celebration. This year the show has taken some hits but over the past 72 hours it has bounced back with vigor. After all, it’s really not about the airplanes — it’s about the people who come and the experiences they enjoy. But before we plunge into that side of the story, here’s a brief status report.
The Show officially opened on Monday morning on-schedule but badly bruised. Enormous tracts of Wittman Field were either submerged or too soft to support an airplane. Parking was at a premium. The Mooney mass arrival was delayed until Sunday morning. Uncounted individual planes were diverted to outlying airports. Most unhappily for me, the Cessna mass arrival squeaked in at sunset Sunday. I missed it because I was feeding quarters in the laundromat, washing and drying rain-soaked clothes.[elementor-template id="179484"]
But EAA management, the vendors and the volunteers have really kicked their game up a notch. On Monday the 6,000 or so volunteers are manning the gates, selling the wristbands, and answering questions. The damaged exhibit displays have been dried and rebuilt. The food kiosks replaced the broken umbrellas and righted their tables and now are fully operational. Late-arriving demonstration planes, such as those displayed by Embry-Riddle and the other flight schools, all are in place. Boeing Plaza is a showplace, with a KC-135 parked next to a new KC-46, a B-17 contrasts with a B-29, and enormous UPS Boing 747-8F freighter towers over the crowd. The buses, trams and forums are running normal schedules. Monday afternoon the first airshow flew and there were no holes in the schedule.
But walking and riding around, it’s clear the show has suffered. The crowds on the flight line are noticeably less dense. In the North Forty there are large areas still closed to planes and campers because the ground is saturated. I was in the South Forty yesterday and it is sparsely populated. To my eyes, warbirds are less prominent and less than half the vintage aircraft parking spaces are filled. There clearly are fewer exciting planes to ogle.
In my last report, I mentioned the airport was using helicopters as giant blow-dryers to speed the evaporation of standing surface water. With those efforts, plus the breeze and bright sunshine, things are improving. Most puddles and soft spots are drying. This morning I saw a giant roller being driven down the grass taxiways, smoothing the rutted surfaces. It’s better, definitely.[elementor-template id="179489"]
On the other hand, the fuel provider at OSH has advised us that North Forty refueling services simply will not be available; they are unwilling to risk their heavy fuel trucks on the soft soil. I have a couple hours of avgas still in my tanks but there may be other planes which simply cannot depart until the airport dries even further or alternative fuel services are devised.
But, like I said, it’s not the planes, it’s the people that make Oshkosh unique in the all the world.
The thunderstorms over the weekend — four sequential storms, from Thursday through Saturday night — could have been a thundering blow that devasted this event. At a purely “for-profit” event, like a rock concert, it could have killed it. Instead, the collective Oshkosh family has come together more than I ever expected. This will be AirVentures’ finest hour.