Posted By RichC on August 6, 2005
Wow … what an Airventure. According to EAA records, about 700,000 people made their way to the Greatest Aviation Celebration in Oshkosh, Wisconsin this year. That number is well above 2004 and is also reflected in the participants as well. More than 10,000 aircraft visited the Oshkosh area including showplanes over the seven-day convention of 2,927. Of those aircraft, a record 1,267 homebuilts; 924 vintage aircraft; 386 warbirds; 196 ultralights; 130 seaplanes; and 24 rotorcraft were at Wittman Regional Airport.
My son Taylor and I were fortunate to be able to be there for a breakfast and visit on Saturday, July 30th, as were several from our EAA chapter. Although I didn’t see everyone, Eric Pfaltzer, Bob Luken, Brett and Debbie Hunter (and kids), Gordon and Laurie Penner. Also neighboring EAA 610’s president Don Gum and Frank Affinger of IAC 34 were spotted.
Saturday was a fantastic weather day for attending the show, although it also guarenteed a large crowd. While I was at the breakfast, Taylor took the opportunity to sneak into the exhibits early and had an opportunity to talk with Mike Melville of the Scaled Composites X-Prize fame.
Later in the day we were treated with an unplanned final public flight from White Knight and Spaceship One before permanent retirement at the Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. Burt Rutan commented on the flight characteristics and the loose knit group of ‘geeks’ that built and flew this design into space; he is such a character. He commented that the reason White Knight has afterburners is that “rocket guys like noise” and that he “found them cheap on Ebay.” I will say that watching the flyby was the icing on the cake for this years visit to Oshkosh.
Besides the duty of carrying Spaceship One, White Knight after its delivery of Spaceship One to Washingon DC, will be on loan to Boeing. I’m not sure exactly what they are testing? (stay tuned or let me know if you have information) Scaled Composites was also behind the round the world Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer flight. We had an second ‘first’ when it took to the air and left for its homebase in Kansas City. We were so close, and it was so wide, that we literally had to duck to let the ultra wide wingspanned plane made its way to the runway. It was great to see these two projects considering the success they had this past year.
There were plenty of aviation celebrities at Airventure this year. Patty Wagstaff was signing poster and doing her aerobatics.
Warplanes were probably the next big attraction, as usual. This year there were some 386 warbirds on display and flying. Taylor and I counted over 50 in the sky at one point during the show. It was impressive. From the awesome P38 Lightening (below) to the six B17s that were at the show.
A polished B25 was in the air as well, along with too many others for me to mention or include.
Besides the bombers, there were many more WWII fighters flying. P51 Mustangs and Navy Corsairs made their roar through the sky overhead. Fighter formations and high speed passes with the help of pyrotechnic special effect from crews on the ground, in combination with the medium and heavy bombers, were able to stun the crowd with noise, fire and smoke. It was an outstanding sychronized performance.
Besides the WWI (no photos) and WWII warplanes there were several vintage fighter jets flying and the ususual static displays of present day military planes. I found it head jerking when the jets were introduced behind the prop planes and can only imagine what it was like pitted against one during wartime. My father-in-law remembers clearly while navigating a B26 Martin Marauder in 1944 seeing German jets scream by. It was enough to put some real fear into these heroic airmen. Thankfully fuel, planes and pilots were a scarce commodity by the arrival of the first generation German jets.
Of course their were historic aircraft from the peacetime era as well. I remember planes like the Ford Tri-motors being used to service the Lake Erie Islands for many years when I was younger. There were several of these as well as a couple amphibious airplanes. I particularly enjoyed SC Johnson Carnauba as I have enjoyed reading about the expeditions.
I briefly enjoyed (ran out of time) looking at the many new Sport Pilot Aircraft as well as the many new planes and kit aircraft. I’ll include just one photo of the many beautifully built and maintained airplanes; heres a great looking Pitts Model 11 Superstinker.
I did get chance to walk over to the Sonex display (my project) and talk with several of the guys in the builders tent. Unfortunately the display was closed up but I did take a couple photos of parts I’m contemplating. (lights on the wingtips, landing lights and fiberglass stab tips)
Now that the show is over and we are back home preparing for our own local FlyIn, I realize how much I enjoy being a member of this great organization. I hope my small participation and enthusiasm will keep the EAA alive for many years to come. From a small grass strip like ours focused on flying and maintaining antique aircraft to the edge of space and back, I’m proud to be part of the EAA