Monday, July 25, 2016

AirVenture At Oshkosh: Another Plane Crazy Week

Airventure grounds - for scale, the runway at the top is 8000 feet
The Experimental Aircraft Association's (EAA) annual week-long Airventure gathering kicks off today. It's better known by its location, Oshkosh, to aviation enthusiasts and you can be assured that every one of them has the event on the bucket list. There's good reason. Imagine a fly-in attracting 7500 airplanes. Imagine 2500 aircraft exhibits, 800 commercial exhibitors, daily world-class airshows, and a total of over 600,000 guests. Organizers call the event "the world's greatest aviation celebration" and this year marks its sixty-fourth presentation. The map above gives readers an idea of the scope and scale of Oshkosh and indicates why the event turns a rather sleepy Wittman Field into the busiest airport in the world for one week each year.

Airventure is far from your average fly-in

I had the privilege of attending the event several times in the last decade of my career. Energizing, informative, and significant, the show was a great vehicle for delivering an organizational message to a large, captured, and enthusiastic audience. You may ask why the National Park Service would send a dozen or so employees and volunteers to work an air show. First, the agency has almost fifty out of its more than 400 units with a significant link to an aviation theme. In addition, the Service maintains a fleet of fixed and rotary wing aircraft contributing over 20,000 hours of flight time annually in support of park operations, maintenance, and resource and fire management. Add to that interagency cooperation across departments as well as airspace regulation over the parks and the justification become clearer. In summation, it's a grand and demanding opportunity to reach out face-to face to thousands of guests who enjoy and impact our national parks.

Nothing like fly-in camping with thousands of your best friends

If you can't attend Airventure, the EAA maintains a comprehensive up-to-the-second website where you can spend hours reading, watching and listening to the day's/week's events. And if summer in Wisconsin doesn't fit your schedule you can take advantage of Sun 'n Fun, the smaller scaled winter equivalent of Airventure held around April 1 in Lakeland, Florida. Although originally an official EAA event, Sun 'n Fun is now managed by an independent organization, but still has the enthusiasm and excitement of its founders.

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