Oshkosh AirVenture is regarded as one of the largest aviation organizations in the world and recently celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. This organization can certainly be considered as the nirvana of fairs for professional & amateur aviators who wish to experience the magnificent atmosphere.
As aviation enthusiasts, we have been making plans to realize this dream for a long time, Oshkosh AirVenture was at the top of our bucket list and it was due time and the right time to go. We prepared our itinerary and arrangements accordingly and set off to take part in this giant organization that was scheduled to last 6 days and was sure to memorable for a lifetime.
On July 20, 2019, we started our journey from Istanbul and landed at our first destination, Chicago. Following an overnight stay in Chicago, we set off on July 21, 2019 to the city of Oshkosh, which is about 280 km from Chicago.
Since it was not easy to arrange accommodations in Oshkosh during the dates of the AirVenture event, we checked into a hotel in Green Bay that was about 40 minutes from Oshkosh and then we immediately went to preview the event at Oshkosh Wittman Airport, the site of this year’s Oshkosh EAA AirVenture. After registration we were filled with pride as the first aviation enthusiasts from Turkey, we had our place pinned on the world map. Then we took a short walk in the main open area and watched the landing of the planes that were arriving for the show.
On July 22 at 09:00 a.m., even though we set off early for the events, there was a heavy traffic on the way to Oshkosh as soon as we exited from the highway. A small suggestion to those attending this event in the future would be to add an additional 1 hour to the transportation period for a 40-minute distance. Despite all, when you arrive at the event venue, you will figure out that it is well worth the effort to get there. This is exactly how we felt after our long journey from Turkey and after spending an additional hour on the highway.
The organization was held on all the runways of Wittman Airport. Apart from 4 separate Exhibit Hangars where all small and large manufacturers` stands were located, a festival area was composed of Main Aircraft Display, Homebuilt Aircraft Display, Fly Market, Ultralight / Rotor Display, EAA Education / Career Center, EAA Innovation Showcase, International Pavilion, Seaplane Base, Aviation Gateway Park, EAA UAM Showcase, Warbird Alley, Homebuilders Hangar, Airplane Workshops, Forums, Vintage Hangar, RC Flying Area, Fly-In Theater, where nearly all types of air platforms were displayed and that were quite appealing to aviation enthusiasts.
Thanks to the voluntary and utmost efforts of the locals of the city of Oshkosh, I can say that we had a splendid experience throughout our trip. The participation of 5,500 volunteers from all ages, from ticket sales to traffic rules, shuttle services and guidance effectively helped this organization’s flawless performance. In advance of the festival kick-off, it was clear in our minds that the devotion of the Oshkosh residents would successfully carry this 50-year legacy into the future.
One of the most fascinating points of the event was that airplane owners from America as well as all over the world came to Oshkosh with their own planes and set up camp for a week under their plane’s shadow. It was worth seeing the colorful images created by these aviators with a common passion for aviation. The 2019 Oshkosh AirVenture event hosted about 40,000 visitors, more than 12,300 airplanes and caravans throughout the six-days of attractions. Thanks to the sweeping campgrounds for those who willing to travel with caravans, in addition to those landing at the event by airplane. The large number of airplanes also meant that air traffic controllers of Wittman Airport shouldered a great deal of responsibility. A total of 16,807 flight operations took place during the 11-day period from July 19 to 29, with an average of 127 landings/take-offs per hour from Wittman Airport, making this tower the world`s busiest Flight Control Tower.
The number of airplanes simultaneously in the air was stunning. The successive landings and takeoffs were unmistakably categorized as airspace model airplanes, helicopters, home-built aircraft, General Aviation and Airshow.
The static and dynamic demonstration of the U.S. Air Force and Airlines’ aircraft, landing and take-off of various aircraft at the venue each day reminded us once again how valuable state support is in these types of aviation events.
Particularly, the performance of modern airplanes in formation flights with classic airplanes was also important to demonstrate respect for the past and to highlight the point which aviation has now reached. The P-51, F-22, A-10 and F-35’s formation flights and then their solo demonstrations were worth seeing. The F-35A show was of course the most attentive of flight demonstration for us, as Turkish citizens. However, the performance of the F-22 Raptor was frankly more impressive.
While the successful aerobatic demonstration flights were watched with enthusiasm by those in the audiences of all ages, acrobatic groups from all over the world were brought together and exciting flights of amateur-designed experimental airplanes were impressive.
The very rare and uncommon Night Air Show, a special element to celebrate the 50th year of the organization, allowed us to watch aerobatic flights with spectacular visual effects. Even if situational awareness was very limited in night aerobatic flights, there were excellent coordinated aerobatics. The fireworks show at the end was huge in size and something that we had never seen before and it was extremely remarkable.
The airplanes of the 1940s, which were in pristine condition and looked as if they were brand new, reminded us of the phrase “There are no old planes, there are neglected planes” and their flights were well worth seeing. There was a separate area for warplanes, and we witnessed that the age of the planes and their civilian owners are nearly same and that the owners cared for these warplanes as their babies; this was a clear indication that an entire life was devoted to these planes, an integral part of the owner’s life story.
The participation of universities and NASA in the event was satisfying for visitors interested in the academic aspects of aviation. At the event venue, there were many stands of aviation departments of numerous universities. In this area, there were various activities for children and young people that sparked interested and imagination. It was really probable for a young person who visited the NASA tent to dream of becoming an astronaut and going to space, even if he had no interest in space and aviation. Free books and posters were distributed at the NASA tent, there were opportunities to chat with experts who explained NASA`s latest projects in simple terms, basic simulators, and activities geared toward the introduction of new technologies made this tent one of AirVenture`s most popular attractions.
Of course, this event should not be regarded as an organization where only air shows are held. In addition to demonstration flights, many workshops were held on various subjects such as metal, wood, composite etc. and visitors had the opportunity to participate in these workshops as amateurs. On the other hand, it was also possible to find companies here that targeted amateur aviators. Such as companies that are developing and marketing products for people who own their own aircraft.
Major OEMs such as Boeing and Airbus also attended the event for professionals. While Airbus exhibited its newly developed electrically powered aircraft, Boeing had a large tent to showcase its military and civilian products.
The Seaplane Base, which seaplane owners utilized to park their planes, opened its doors to visitors during AirVenture. Even though the planes in this area did not perform demonstration flights, it was a pleasure to watch all the landings and taking offs over a lake in the green area, which was handled with safety and care for themselves and the safety of other planes.
During the event, small tours were organized via the flights of Bell 47, Ford Tri-Motor and B-17 Aluminum Overcast aircraft to view Oshkosh from the air. Old aircraft enthusiasts were given the opportunity to fly with these aircraft. The interest in these flights continued throughout the event and the planes were constantly in the air until the very last day of the event. Around 7,000 enthusiasts enjoyed these flights and had the opportunity to watch the 50th Oshkosh event with a bird’s eye view.
At the demonstrations of the old bomber aircraft, theatrical scenes were enacted for the audience. Thanks to the very professionally made special effects at the target points, the explosion sequence performed by such aircraft seemed very real, even if they did not drop real bombs. At some moments we felt like we were in a war movie scene. As the visual show was also equipped with blast effects, the rumble and vibration was felt by the audience.
The venue where this event takes place is open to the EAA and other aviation organizations during the year. The hangar and Vintage Club, located outside the square and used by vintage aircraft owners to renew their aircraft, were used by RC Model aircraft pilots during the event.
The EAA Museum located at the entrance was one of the most exceptional museums we have ever seen. It was exciting to see the replica of the Spirit of St. Louis airplane which Charles Lindberg made the legendary flight to the Atlantic, and the replica of the Voyager airplane which performed a non-stop flight around the world with a single-tank of fuel, known as "The Last First".
We had the opportunity to meet with the legendary pilot Dick Rutan, who was invited as a speaker to the museum and one of the great contributors of Voyage’s success and we had a chance to chat about the period during his assignment in Turkey.
The museum attracted considerable attention because of the simulations, interactive games and experimental setups related to the various airplanes. Even in this part of the museum, you could spend many hours and sow the seeds of aviation among future aviators. I hope to see this section particularly designed for children in our country in the upcoming years.
Oshkosh AirVenture is known as the most intense moment of aviation even though it continues throughout the year. We believe that events like Airex, Teknofest, Eurasia, Municipal Festivals and Sivrihisar Air Show, which have been increasingly held in our country in recent years, are meant to be the points where aviation love starts especially for children and young people, apart from being the gathering points of aviation enthusiasts and flight demonstrations. Aviation love of children and youngsters will initially carry them forward and then their country. However, it is very important that these events should not remain only as Air Shows; they should be held especially in the field of amateur aviation throughout the year at different points, more clubs and associations should be established, and aviation should become part of recreation, a hobby of for the public to enjoy. We hope that in the coming years, we will continue to see such events more frequently in our country with increasing quality and large numbers of eager participants