Part One In A Series
by ANN Correspondent Larry Stencel
Oshkosh! Very few place names will put a smile on the face of a
pilot faster. Most have either been to "Oshkosh" or want to
‘some day.’ With less than three weeks to go before The
World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration - AirVenture 2008 -
begins in that normally quiet central Wisconsin city of 62,000,
pilots and aviation enthusiasts from all around the World are
finalizing their preparations and looking forward with great
anticipation to their attendance at the 56th annual convention of
the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), headquartered there.
Oshkosh ... the aviation "fever" begins every July.
Do you have it?
During one week each year, the population of Oshkosh swells many
times over when more than 500,000 aviation devotees descend upon
the Wittman Regional Airport to get their annual dose of all things
aviation. In some years past, it has been estimated that there were
nearly as many people living on or near the airport as populate
that City on the western shore of Lake Winnebago itself. Living in
tents under their airplanes, in RVs on and near the field,
occupying every motel room, dormitory, campground and available
private home for miles around, the attendees come, year after
And the people of Oshkosh welcome them. It would be hard to find
a public establishment in or near Oshkosh that doesn’t have a
sign displayed out front proclaiming … "Welcome EAA."
Oshkosh isn't just about airplanes, it’s about the people,
too; the locals who welcome the convention-goers, as well as those
Well in advance of the air show, an army of willing volunteers
-- some who have been helping out for years -- is already in place
preparing the EAA grounds for the expected throngs. Asking for
little more than a smile or a "Thanks" from those they help, this
annual convention could never work as efficiently or smoothly as it
does without them. And, the EAA itself works year around preparing
for this one magical week in Wisconsin each summer. Oshkosh is a
well-honed convention which improves each and every year.
When a first time attendee gets his or her first glimpse of the
massive number of airplanes parked, well, everywhere on the Oshkosh
airport, it might seem as if every machine capable of flight is
already there. In recent years, more than 10,000 total airplanes --
around 2,500 of them showplanes -- fly into Oshkosh. It’s
tough to count them all because they come and they go... some visit
for the entire week, others come for just a day or two. Whatever
the true numbers, there are a heckuva lot of airplanes on the field
… more than most folks will ever see anyplace else.
You’ll see rare one of a kind machines and common every day
"spam cans." And they don’t just sit; daily flybys and air
shows offer the opportunity to see these machines overhead, as
well; the skies are always buzzing. The Warbird air shows are a
favorite of most attendees. In this one place on earth, for one
week each summer, you’ll see more airplanes than you can
possibly digest. And you’ll experience mankind at its
For the seasoned veteran pilots who have been there, flying into
the busiest airport in the world without using their radio,
navigating the huge air show and grounds, finding suitable housing
and transportation, finding a peaceful place to eat, and meeting
new aviation friends are old hat; each has their Oshkosh "system"
practiced and honed.
First time attendees, especially those who may not have done
adequate pre-show preparations (but will wish that they did)... the
learning process begins. The proportions involved in this event are
beyond comprehension; unless you experience it, you can’t
appreciate the magnitude of the Oshkosh EAA AirVenture fly-in.
Adequate preparations, then, with backup planning is an absolutes
It remains to be seen what impact the high cost of fuel will
have on attendance numbers this year. Since the great preponderance
of convention attendees drive in, there are steps they can take to
reduce those transportation costs. Likewise, there are ways that
flyers can reduce both the cost and complexity of attendance while
pegging their "fun" meters. Since Oshkosh is as much about family
and friendships and vacation as it is aviation, one idea would be
to combine them all together. Central Wisconsin has long been a
summer vacation destination and there are a great deal of other
activities available nearby to make a visit more enjoyable and
efficient. Combine attendance at the fly-in with your family
vacation and you’ll save money and make your family and
friends happy, too.
Toward that end, one of our ANN Oshkosh 2008 "newbies" who
summers in the area and has attended 25 conventions since 1977 will
offer readers a series of articles aimed at familiarizing new
attendees with the Convention and seasoned veterans with
alternatives to make their visit to AirVenture and Central
Wisconsin both more efficient and ... FUN!
Subsequent articles will cover the "other" airports in the
vicinity, ideas for family activities offsite, obtaining housing
and transportation, great places to eat as well as ways to
understand and navigate the convention itself. Starting with the
potential impact of the recent Wisconsin flooding most people have
seen in the media, every few days leading up to AirVenture,
we’ll present an article on these subjects, and more.
Airventure 2008... it's about airplanes, people and fun in
Wisconsin. The staff of ANN hopes to see you there. So do the
people of Oshkosh, WI.