Photo by Chris
Tom Poberezny speaks with reporters Sunday about one of the best
AirVenture Oshkosh events ever.
August 2, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin -
"You think it was a good event?"
EAA Chairman and President Tom Poberezny
turned the tables on reporters Sunday to open his wrap-up press conference
as AirVenture was winding down to its final afternoon.
"You like to come out of each event
saying it was the best ever," he said. "But if you keep saying
that every year people won't believe you because you can't always have the
'best ever' over all the years.
"But I'm going to say it: It was one of
the best ever."
The down economy, especially in the aviation
industry, lowered expectations for 2009, Poberezny said. "My
expectations were high, but I have to say this year far exceeded my
Some preliminary figures released included
2,652 showplanes - the most since 2005; 750 (est.) exhibitors, up at least
30 from the previous year; and more than 2,000 International visitors from
75 countries, knowing full well that many here from abroad do not
register; and more than 10,000 people toured the Airbus A380 during its
Why was the turnout so strong across the
board? "I undershot - we all undershot a bit," Poberezny
admitted. "When times are tough, people have to make choices. Those
with a passion for aviation said Oshkosh needed to be on my
Poberezny also credited the long-term
relationship Oshkosh has with its members, the aviation community, and
enthusiasts. "That allowed people to make that choice to come here
because they didn't want to miss it."
Finally, it was the programs: "I've been
chairman of Oshkosh since the mid-1970s and I have to say we've never had
a better set of programs than this year. The depth and the breadth of the
planes, the people, the participants, was outstanding."
He revealed that an estimated 15,000 people
showed up to see comedian Jeff Dunham on Saturday night at Theater in the
Woods. That's an all-time record for the venue.
Other featured highlights of the week cited
were Chesley Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles, flight crew of the Miracle on
the Hudson; Jessica Cox, the woman who learned to fly even though she was
born without arms; participation by the broad spectrum of the aviation
Poberezny said among the most special moments
of the week came on Tuesday when the Airbus A380 arrived. "It lasted
about two minutes," he explained. "Coming down the steps of the
A380, I met a gentleman from France who was the managing director of the
Paris Air Show. To me that spoke volumes - that the Paris Air Show thought
enough of this event to send their managing director here to 'see what was
Poberezny said the aviation community needs to
do more to grow the pilot population. "We're looking for the
enthusiast who has the dream of being involved but doesn't have the
know-how to do it. We need to lead them on the path to become engaged, and
that's the role EAA is going to play."
Regarding the site enhancements, Poberezny
said that the reaction from exhibitors and members has been extremely
"This week demonstrated that the passion
for flight is as strong as it ever has been.'
EAA spent almost $3.8 million on improving the
site this year - the campsite, transportation infrastructure, expansion of
exhibit space, amenities for our visitors, trees, and of course, flush
"Thank God we did, because the site
enhancements facilitated the crowds that we had," Poberezny said.
"The response has been very positive by all segments of our
membership and exhibitors. It's the first of many steps to ensure that the
physical site makes this event a leader in aviation. This has truly become
general aviation's home and we're going to ensure the site continues to
Looking at 2010, Poberezny revealed that
discussions are already underway on some other big airplanes, including
"a strong possibly" for SpaceShip2, unique technology, various
milestone event including the 75th anniversary of the DC-3, and further
enhancements of electric-powered aircraft.
In closing, Poberezny recited the four Ps as
the keys to the success at Oshkosh: "The planes bring people here.
The people are what give them life. The passion is what motivates us. But
without participation none of the above makes any sense."
Final attendance figures will be available
Monday afternoon, Poberezny said.