Today we went to the world-famous AirVenture Convention in Oshkosh, WI. I am serious about world famous. If you are into airplanes, coming to Oshkosh is like making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
AirVenture is produced by the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) and while it is highly oriented towards smaller planes and so-called “sport pilots”, there is also a lot of military and some transport plane presence. Mostly, it is absolutely massive. Many people fly in to the show, and there are field after field, filled with row after row, of small airplane – many of them with tents beside- in addition to half a dozen filled to the brim gigantic parking lots.
We arrived around 10:30 AM and stayed till closing at 6:00 PM. In the morning we mostly wandered around the “static displays”, people who had brought their hobby airplanes in for show plus vendors selling airplane-related stuff. In the afternoon we watched a 2 hour airshow, which was traditional airshow aerobatics including wing-walking and helicopter aerobatics (weird). The show ended with the landing of the Boeing DreamLifter – one of four B747’s modified to add a huge cargo area on top, and whose sole purpose if shuttling parts for the B787 DreamLifter between Boeing factories around the world. They claim it’s bigger than the plane “from that other plane company” (the Airbus A380).
The vendor area was five huge hangars each with 100+ booths selling everything from exhaust manifolds to wind socks (there is a whole company – “Huffys” – devoted to wind socks – who knew?) There was also lots of flight simulator gear (chairs with hydraulics and so on, accessible to a really motivated hobbyist, plus professional versions) all centred around Microsoft Flight Simulator (that product has obviously spawned an entire sub-industry of its own, and like most MFST products, it looks like it has no real competition).
There were lots of companies selling kit airplanes – that’s right, you build it yourself. The cheapest was $21,500; you write them a cheque and a few days later a huge box (just one!) shows up on your driveway, and you spend the next 300 hours building it. They claim it requires no special tools or skills like welding. It is mostly made of “pop rivets” that I guess anybody can learn to install without special gear. It would be a fun project to build a plane, but I’m not so sure I’d want to ever fly it…
AirVenture goes on for an entire week. It was a lot of fun. But one day was enough for us.