|Piper Cubs painted the Vintage parking area yellow in celebration of the aircraft's 75th anniversary. (photo by Brady Lane)
|AirVenture 2012 celebrated the 40th anniversary of Van's Aircraft, which drew many RVs to Oshkosh. (photo by Chris Miller)
By Dave Higdon
The sun sometimes played peek-a-boo; rains came infrequently and didn't over-stay their welcome; the planes varied from across the spectrum - and from across aviation's eras.
And the people ... the people ... what can you say? They arrived by roadway and airway, swarmed the grounds, filled the campsites, volunteered in an infinite number of roles, sold their wares, stocked away their new goodies, and generally made what has been EAA AirVenture 2012 the rousing success it's been.
"It's been a great AirVenture so far, hasn't it?" EAA President/CEO Rod Hightower said on Saturday morning. He added that a lot of positive feedback has been received on several new things EAA has done to improve the visitor's experience, such as a restaurant, camp store, and expanded showers in the North 40, mud and dust abatement efforts, a balanced air show, new offerings for young people, and several other efforts.
Consider these elements of EAA's 60th annual get together.
Many happy anniversaries!
Something seemed to highlight every day in many ways, starting with the mass arrivals of a week ago - really? A week, already?
And anniversary celebrations stood out among a sky full of other stand-out moments.
Adding to the mass-arrival traditions of the Bonanzas and Cessnas and Mooneys and later-model Pipers came a fleet of Mr. Piper's jaunty yellow J-3 Cubs - 75 in all - to commemorate the 75th anniversary of what's arguably the most-recognized design in aviation. More than 125 eventually turned a large portion of Vintage aircraft parking into fields of gold.
The 40th anniversary of a diminutive single-seat homebuilt focused renewed attention on experimental aviation's most-successful and prolific lineage and its creator: the RV line of designer Dick VanGrunsven. Acres of his flying progeny stood in dynamic testament to his influence.
The AirVenture universe also paid homage to an anniversary of an aviation event that had global implications for the outcome of a war and the world: the daring raid on Japan by a band of U.S. Army Air Corps crew who daringly flew their land-based medium bombers from the U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier Hornet.
Regulating, safety - and making us smarter
AirVenture's draw of pilots and aircraft owners and aviation community members of all stripes also provides a ripe environment for them to interact with officials charged with regulating aviation activities and, unfortunately, discovering the roots of our aviating mishaps and misfortunes.
Enter the officials of the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.
In both public appearances and private, Acting FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta communicated agency plans, positions, and problems to the assembled. He addressed issues as diverse as the joint petition for a medical certificate exemption for some pilots flying some aircraft, to the challenges of advancing the NextGen upgrade, to air-traffic management and the looming bubble of retirement-eligible FAA staff.
On the safety side NTSB Chairman Deborah A. P. Hersman presented not only the results of her agency's yearlong study into the causes of experimental amateur-built aircraft accidents, but also invested time discussing suggestions for reducing the disproportionately high accident rate within the E-AB community-and how EAA plays a vital role in the implementation.
And then there were the innumerable forums and workshops addressing issues related to everything from the safe, smart construction of experimental aircraft to smart, judgment-informed flying to savvy aircraft maintenance - all keystones of safe aircraft and safe flying.
Aviation shopping's biggest mall
From the smallest widgets to the smartest gadgets, from the wheelpants to wingtips, from spinner to tailwheel...if the product exists for the aviator it's likely been available to take home from AirVenture 2012.
Technology-related products ranked high on many aviators' shopping lists thanks to the plethora of new tools for the cockpit as well as for the airplanes themselves.
As profiled daily in AirVenture Today's newest column, AvTech @ AirVenture, there seems to be no area of flying in which the parallel revolutions in microelectronics and software don't penetrate.
Maybe it's a new headset system - no, not merely another active noise-reduction system design but one free from wire tethers - or a panel-mounted device that wirelessly communicates information to a remote unit (think anything from a smartphone to a tablet computer to a purpose-built electronic flight bag, or EFB).
True, however, something is lost from some of this techno-march -the burden of paper we once toted in charts and plates and manuals.
But since when has anyone complained about a useful weight loss?
That's entertainment - AirVenture style
If all this failed to sate your appetite for aviation-related activities the entertainment options of AirVenture rival - at least for the week - venues with names like Branson and Hollywood and Vegas.
The first and arguably most common appeal goes to the afternoon air show, with its daily lineup of featuring most of the world's top performers - all of them, from the perspective of many fans.
Interestingly, the end of the daily air show also marked the start of a day's worth of other entertaining options.
The rockin' sounds of the Steve Miller Band opened the week's aprÃ¨s air show opportunities and the fun kept rolling through the week.
Whether the nightly programs at the Theater in the Woods, the nightly films at the Fly-In Theater, the series of sound sessions presented by the Flying Musicians Association, forum area sets, or the myriad of ad-hoc, impromptu gatherings of friends jamming around campsites, there was ample reason to end the day well-entertained.
So the week went ...
Mother Nature smiled more than she frowned; the vast majority of fly-in pilots are returning as they arrived, and the wonderful volunteers staffing the first aid center had no real business from pilots who'd bent airplanes.
It's been, looking back, a blur of wings and a din of engines - and a swarm of friends old and new.
Let's do this again next year to celebrate another milestone - EAA's 60th birthday and the beginning of a community of aviators unparalleled in the world.
We'll be back starting July 29 for the week through August 4, 2013. We'll be looking for you.