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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedNew Benches Will Provide Rest for AirVenture Visitors

This year, Oshkosh visitors will experience many changes to the AirVenture convention grounds with enhanced amenities and greatly improved infrastructure. One of the most recent additions to the site is perhaps the most simple and, for weary visitors, will likely be the most appreciated. Just this week, dozens of new concrete benches were placed throughout the grounds. They'll provide a convenient place for people to stop, relax, and rest during their AirVenture visit..

The benches were generously donated to EAA by Craig and Connie Willan in memory of Craig's older brother, Brent, who succumbed to brain cancer several years ago.

Their father, who flew B-17s in World War II with the U.S. Army Air Corps, passed the aviation gene to Craig, an EAA Lifetime Member who has built an RV-7A along with some ultralights and is in the process of building a Sonex.

"But Brent, he was a car guy," Craig said.

Craig, a metallurgical engineer, joined EAA in the late 1970s. Every year he attended Oshkosh he tried to coax his brother into joining him, but Brent always declined. Craig and Connie live in Texas north of Fort Worth, and Brent lived in South Dakota. In 2003, as the aviation world was preparing to celebrate the 100th year of powered flight, Brent finally relented and attended his first AirVenture.

"And he loved it!" Craig said. In fact Brent became so enamored with aviation that he decided to build his own airplane, an RV-8. After the convention ended he began taking flight lessons.

Something, however, wasn't quite right with Brent when he got into the cockpit, and he would tell his younger brother, "I'm just not getting it." Craig tried to reassure him that everything would eventually make sense, and Brent pressed on.

But cognitive difficulties started occurring more frequently in Brent's everyday life. Following a physical examination in November of that year, he was told he had two brain tumors.

"They gave him a month to live," Craig said. Refusing to accept such a dire prognosis, Craig brought his brother to the University of Texas, where cancer treatment is world renowned, for a second opinion. They were able to treat the tumors with chemotherapy and other regimens, which gave Brent two more years, allowing another trip to Oshkosh in 2004.

Craig said Brent would frequently grow very tired during that visit, only able to manage walking 30 or 40 minutes at a time before needing rest. Craig remembered that there wasn't always a convenient place for Brent to stop and rest on the grounds. That recollection became an action plan just a few months ago.

While in Mojave, California, for a special preview of WhiteKnightTwo at Scaled Composites, Craig met with EAA's Elissa Lines, EAA vice president of development, to discuss an idea he had to honor Brent - donate several hundred benches to provide more places for visitors to rest while attending AirVenture. "At the end of the day, human beings need water, food, and rest," he said.

The first shipment of benches - about 100 of them - is in place for Oshkosh 2009, with more scheduled to be placed throughout the grounds in the coming years.

Brent went to his final rest in December 2005, a full 25 months after he was told to get his affairs in order within 30 days. But his legacy will go on for years to come, providing thousands of AirVenture attendees with a place to take a break during their long convention days.

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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