Endless sea of wings

09/11/2015
 

Every year for one week in July, thousands of planes fly to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for the convention widely known as Oshkosh. Formally called EAA Airventure, hosted by the Experimental Aircraft Association and held at Wittman Regional Airport, Oshkosh is a living dream for anyone who loves airplanes. Over this past summer I finally made it back to Oshkosh for the first time in eight years.

The newly redesigned Goodyear Blimp flew into Oshkosh.
The newly redesigned Goodyear Blimp flew into Oshkosh.
Oshkosh works like a fair, with the grounds being Wittman’s fields and hangars. There’s a large section dedicated to warbirds (called Warbird Alley), where you can see large bombers and fighter jets and walk rows of Spitfires, P-51s, P-40s, Corsairs, and other smaller planes. I really liked a P-51 named Pecos Bill. There are sections of field for experimental aircraft, biplanes, light sport aircraft, and private jets. Some pilots stay with their planes and are happy to talk or answer questions.  

Companies like Ford and Boeing had expo tents - Ford had the prototype for its new GT, and Boeing had small-scale models of its jumbo jets. HondaJet had its plane on display in a tent as well. Aviation and non-aviation companies alike set up booths in other hangars - one booth was selling small-scale quad rotors.  

The Aeroshell T-6 Texan team performed in the airshow.
The Aeroshell T-6 Texan team performed in the airshow.
A different section, called the Workshop Pavilion, had lots of free classes and various talks and presentations for anyone to take advantage of. I took TIG and gas welding classes and went to a talk given by a Goodyear blimp pilot.  

In the afternoons I watched the airshow. There were several aerobatics flights, including a Jack Links-sponsored biplane with a jet engine attached to its belly and the Aeroshell T-6 Texan team. Airbus’s new A-350 did a demo flight, and the new F-35 Lightning II made its first public appearance. A B-52 landed at Oshkosh for the first time as well.

The new Airbus A-350 did a demonstration.
The new Airbus A-350 did a demonstration.
Over at the campground section, there were rows dedicated specifically to Mooneys, Cessnas, Pipers, and Beechcrafts, especially Bonanzas. Thousands of pilots fly in and camp right next to their planes. To accommodate campers, the campgrounds have food tents and bath houses set up. Each of these also has charging stations. A non-planes cool fact about Oshkosh is that no one will steal your stuff - after all, what pilot is going to steal from another pilot? You could leave something charging all day and find it waiting for you when you got back.

I spent my three nights camping out next to a Beech Sierra in the north 40 along runway 9. And out of every amazing thing I got to see, I think what I liked most was the daily life I had while I was there: Waking up at sunrise and hearing the rumbling roar of planes taking off overhead for airshow practice.  Walking around all day in the summer sun, seeing a million planes up close, learning something new a million times. Chilling by the runway watching hours of airshow. And coming back in the evening tired and happy, just in time to see the rainbow dusk fade over a seemingly endless sea of wings.

Sunset over the north 40 campsite.
Sunset over the north 40 campsite.
Oshkosh Stats:

  • 550,000 people attended, with more than 10,000 aircraft
  • Visitors registered from 80 nations
  • 350 warbirds flew in airshows


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