|From Jetman to the Terrafugia roadable aircraft and everything that flies in between, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh again showed why it's the greatest event in aviation. (above photo by Phil Weston)
|(photo by Tyson V. Rininger)
|(photo by DeKevin Thornton)
By Dave Higdon
August 4, 2013 - The voices across the field have spoken, and from the grassroots level EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2013 succeeded in reinvigorating the membership and re-energizing the fly-in.
Contributing to the success: uncharacteristically near-perfect weather, a nonstop agenda of activities, flying and entertainment, a new aircraft and products, and a new attitude from a new leadership and...did we mention great weather?
"What an amazing week at Oshkosh," said a smiling Jack Pelton, EAA chairman."The weather has been nearly perfect, the attractions outstanding, and the enthusiasm among our volunteers, attendees and exhibitors has been contagious."
The North 40 aircraft campground took on more of the trappings of a community with its new food stand, which drew scores through the evenings enjoying conversations, playing board games, and strangers making new friends. The wider variety and location of dining choices proved a winner across the grounds.
At the far opposite end of the grounds, far beyond the south end of Runway 18/36, the aircraft seemed to stretch to nearly Fond du Lac; homebuilts and vintage and warbirds packed the spaces in between.
Phillips 66 Plaza hosted Chicago and a series of other bands; country star and pilot Aaron Tippin and artist Gary Sinise's Lt. Dan Band delivered their own sound stylings.
The annual Gathering of Eagles raised more millions in support of EAA Young Eagles and welcomed a new chairman to EAA's long-running program.
The first Yellow Ribbon Honor Flight sent 114 Vietnam veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit their memorial and those monuments to other wars and their veterans-and returned them to a cheering welcome on the same day.
And every day the flying entertainment blended alternating themes and show style, warbirds and aerobatics, a flying car and a man flying on a wing with four tiny jet engines.
Get the idea?
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2013 succeeded in overcoming some of the most daunting challenges the annual event has faced in its 61 runs.
"There are so many things that make this year's AirVenture memorable," Jack said, "such as the first public flights of Jetman and the Terrafugia Transition, to the screening of Disney's Planes, to all the aviation innovations we've seen unveiled at Oshkosh."
A B-29 named FIFI, a crop-duster-turned-air-racer star named Dusty, and a Jetman named Yves, the Tora squadron, the aerobatic acts, the best show on the planet watching the arrivals and departures of airplanes by the thousands...workshop experiences, youth education, and nods to aviation's history.
Oshkosh 2013 brought it all together in one place, a place like no other.
"Once again the spirit of aviation within EAA helped us overcome challenges to make this The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration," Jack noted. "Special thanks go to our members as well as our volunteers for their hundreds of thousands of hours of service to make the event a success."
Members concerns about the future of the air show were largely quelled amid a growing movement in Congress to reverse the FAA's demands for payment and solid court arguments playing out in Chicago.
To quote one member who declined to be identified, "This year won't change the minds of those who thought EAA should refuse FAA's demands for compensation (for ATC services...). But it should.
"Canceling Oshkosh would be a lot like shutting off your fuel to save money in-flight...sure, you save money right up to the point that you crash and burn - and you still haven't gotten where you were going."
But the people of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh showed that they're still running strong.
"Early in the coming week we'll have the final totals on attendance, aircraft registration, and other areas that reflect the sheer size of AirVenture," Jack noted. "More important, though, is each person's individual experiences and memories that can happen only at Oshkosh."
The influx of aircraft will reverse and the field will empty, but the memories will continue generating conversations with those who didn't attend - and wished they had.
"You can't help but leave Oshkosh with a good feeling about aviation and the people in it," Jack added. "We thank everyone for being a part of this year's event."
Planning has already started for EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014, which opens July 28 and runs through August 3...we'll watch for you on the field.
Meanwhile, safe flights home, everyone.