|(photo by Phil Weston)
By Dave Higdon
July 27, 2013 - AirVenture 2013 is at last here, and you'll forgive the 61-year-old event for not acting its age.
Aviation's signature event has progressed with the times on the 60th anniversary of the first EAA fly-in in 1953, and the level of action and activity is enough to tax the most energetic, supported by the technology of today.
As in the beginning, EAA's signature event draws thousands of aviators, fans, and airplane nuts to its vast assortment of aircraft and aviation innovations. The annual gathering connects flying's origins in fragile, open-structure craft to today's broad spectrum of sport, personal, business, and military machines.
"We're as ready as we can make it, even as we continue to work through the setup," said EAA Chairman Jack Pelton Friday.
After a year of organizational challenges, leadership changes, and unexpected logistical hurdles, the grounds are as ready as they can be, the volunteers in place, and controllers on the job ready for the thousands of aircraft that swell into the thousands to make Oshkosh the largest gathering of its kind.
"We think the people who come will find plenty to see, and we're working to make some new things part of the experience and to shake up some of the familiar," Pelton said.
Now that you've picked up the always informative pre-show edition of AirVenture Today, take a look around the program listings and grounds for the many subtle and substantive changes made since the last gathering of EAA's faithful.
From a rousing start to a spectacular finish...
With mass arrivals coming over the weekend, a litany of events packed into opening day, and the launch of the daily air show, Oshkosh is packed with workshops and forums, product and service introductions, and as much camaraderie as the aviation community offers.
Oshkosh is known for the quality and quantity of the daily air show, and Pelton offered that this year EAA plans to elevate the show with changes to keep the entertainment moving and varied. He explained that the Rockwell Collins - sponsored air show schedule varies the types of aircraft from one act to the next, moving away from blocks filled with similar aircraft types.
And Oshkosh, as usual, will host several firsts and introductions.
For example, the public flying debut of the Terrafugia Transition flying car is expected to be a crowd - stopper on its only day flying, Wednesday, July 31 - right before the night air show.
On Friday, AirVenture Oshkosh helps celebrate veterans of the Vietnam War with the arrival of a special Yellow-Ribbon Honor Flight in concert with American Airlines and Oshkosh Corporation.
To cap off an opening day filled with aviating activities the crowds can hear a free concert courtesy of Ford Motor Company by the legendary jazz-rock group, Chicago, which will offer a lineup of music spanning its four decades of recordings.
And music is a repeat attraction on the Main Plaza Stage during Oshkosh, Pelton noted. On Tuesday, Vic Ferrari plays, followed by pilot and country star Aaron Tippin with Chasin Mason on Wednesday, Deuces Wild Dueling Pianos on August 1, the return of the Lt. Dan Band and actor Gary Sinise on Friday sponsored by the Disabled American Veterans and Warbirds of America, followed Saturday by Da BLOOZE Bros on Saturday.
All week long the Fly-In Theater presented by Ford provides aviation-themed cinematic diversions, highlighted by Friday's special screening of Disney's Planes.
Ground control to Major Tom...
Among the many evening programs scheduled is "Space Night" with astronauts Charlie Duke and former International Space Station commander Chris Hadfield. During his six months commanding the International Space Station, Hadfield grew into a new-media sensation with his entertaining looks at life in space, culminating with his David Bowie-approved cover of the British rocker's classic, "Space Oddity."
Other evening programs detail the story of "Bringing the Space Shuttle West" (July 30), followed Friday evening by a program presented by Medal of Honor recipient Gen. Patrick Brady and interviewer David Hartman.
Weather permitting, of course, Oshkosh crowds can look forward to the debut flights of Europe's stellar Jetman, aka Yves Rossy. His debut public appearance in North America, supported by sponsor Swiss watch manufacturer Breitling, is scheduled for Tuesday; repeat demonstrations are planned for Wednesday and again Saturday and Sunday.
Rossy shares insights into his Jetman flying during an evening program on Thursday.
Other all-week-long activities include KidVenture; ultralight flying morning and evening; daily aircraft presentations on Phillips 66 Plaza and in Warbirds; the forums and workshops - all opportunities to learn and make friends with aviation fans and aviators from around the world.
Grounds changes, north to south, east to west...
Pelton noted a number of grounds changes that return visitors should notice and first-time attendees should find useful.
For example, AirVenture's North 40 aircraft campground holds a warm place in the hearts of tens of thousands of fly-in veterans, and over the past several years EAA has progressively introduced improvements and additions to the area bordering the north and south sides of Runway 9/27. New showers were added in past years, the handicapped pilots camping area revised for easier access, and registration facilities expanded.
This year North 40 campers get new amenities previously a considerable distance away: The new North 40 Cafe and a new EAA Gift Shop. Pelton noted visitors will also see more variety in dining opportunities presented by new vendors with strong local reputations.
"We've also added some new permanent restroom facilities in place of the portable facilities, and we plan to continue adding more permanent facilities in the future," he said.
EAA established the new Innovations Pavilion featuring new advances and developments of inventors and tinkerers and geared to reflect EAA's roots in advancing technologies now common in new-production general aviation and light-sport aircraft. The Innovations Pavilion sits on the east side of Knapp Street just south of the intersection with Celebration Way.
To showcase aviation career opportunities and networking, the new College Park presented by American Airlines will be active all week. It's on the triangle of property bordered by Knapp Street, Waukau Avenue, and James Ray Boulevard north of Hangar A and across Waukau.
If you hunger for even more, be sure to pick up a program and site guide, or consult the Sporty's EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2013 Fly-in app, available at www.Sportys.com/apps for both Android and Apple iOS-driven smartphones and tablet computers.