4 min read
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Oshkosh, Wisconsin becomes the center of the aviation universe for one week a year.

Oshkosh. Have you ever met an aviation enthusiast who didn’t know exactly what that word meant? The annual EAA gathering in Wisconsin, officially called AirVenture, is a common thread in an aviation community that is remarkable for its diversity. Some pilots like homebuilts and some like certified airplanes; some like glass cockpits and some hate them. But everyone likes Oshkosh.

Is it an airshow? A fly-in? A family reunion? It’s all of that and more. To me, it’s the closest you get to summer camp for adults. It’s a place to get away from everyday life and reconnect with unique people and planes. And it’s a place where everyone looks up when an airplane flies overhead.

There are probably 100 reasons to like Oshkosh, and everyone will have their own list. To get the conversation started, let me offer eight things that keep me coming back year after year:

  1. Landing on the green dot. Going to Oshkosh is one thing, but flying into Wittman Regional Airport is truly arriving in style. If you’ve never flown to Ripon, followed the railroad tracks, rocked your wings and landed on one of the dots on the runway, you’re missing one of the definitive experiences in general aviation. You have to be there to appreciate it. (Here’s my arrival video from last year).
  2. The North 40. After landing on the green dot, turn left or right into the grass and show your GAC sign to the marshallers. You’ll soon be among thousands of other airplanes in a small city that is rich with interesting pilots and stories. Want to spend a fun afternoon? Just walk up to any tent and say “nice airplane;” you’ll learn the history of the airplane and have a new friend for the week. This is also a great place to bring a non-pilot. Nowhere else in the world will you see such a wide variety of airplanes next to one another.
  3. Friendly people. It may sound cliched, but the people in Wisconsin really are nicer. From the young people serving food to the EAA staff to the thousands of volunteers, the entire show feels like one big family. Want proof? Try walking from the North 40 to the main show area and not getting offered a ride by someone on a golf cart–it’s hard to do. I’ve got nothing against New Yorkers, but if AirVenture was held on Long Island, it just wouldn’t feel the same.
  4. Walking the vintage line. From open cockpit Wacos to sleek Cessna 195s, this area is like a living history museum. Stick your head in the cockpit of one of these marvelous airplanes and you’ll be transported back to a time when a DG was high tech and gas was cheap. But these aren’t just pictures in a museum–every one of the planes flew in. It’s one of the great strengths of general aviation that so many pilots restore and maintain these aircraft, and Oshkosh is the place to take it all in.
  5. Up close and personal with legendary airplanes. Of the thousands of airplanes on display at AirVenture, from an old Cub to the new Boeing 787, almost none are roped off. This hands-on time with famous airplanes is just another way in which Oshkosh is friendly and welcoming. It’s also powerful. You can read about a Lockheed Constellation, but seeing it, touching it and smelling it gives you a whole new appreciation for the machine and the people who built it.
  6. Aviation icons. It’s not just legendary airplanes you see–it’s legendary people too. Where else can you walk right up to Bob Hoover, Burt Rutan or an astronaut and ask a question as if you’ve known each other forever? Every year AirVenture brings out plenty of stars, but what I appreciate most is there are no entourages and no red carpets. Most of these celebrities are at Oshkosh simply because they love flying.
  7. Everyone is an equal. Variety is really what makes Oshkosh tick–it attracts pilots from all walks of life and from all over the world. But whether you’re a CEO flying a $10 million jet or a college kid building a Pietenpol, you can have a great conversation with anyone at the show simply by asking, “what are you flying?” The passion for aviation breaks down a lot of invisible walls that get erected in everyday life.
  8. Your own traditions. Everyone has their own “must-do” list at Oshkosh, usually developed over years of walking the show or handed down from generation to generation. For me, the show’s not over until I have a famous soft serve ice cream cone, buy some gadget from the Fly Market and sit in the grass of the North 40 watching airplanes take off. These rituals remind me that, while the airplanes change, the spirit and traditions of general aviation are timeless.

Now it’s your turn. Add your comments below, or create your own list of “eight things I love about Oshkosh” and submit it as a story to [email protected].

I’ll see you at the brown arch.

John Zimmerman
12 replies
  1. John O
    John O says:

    Excellent list!

    I enjoy everyone of those items. I really like the comment about aviation breaking down barriers.

    In addition to your list, I’d add:

    – Seeing old friends

    – Getting away from every day life

    – Waking to the sound of round engines!

  2. Marcy K
    Marcy K says:

    Seeing all the friends you only see once per year and my new fav. thing is the Night Air show… love,love,love..

  3. Charles Lloyd
    Charles Lloyd says:

    Strolling through the four vendor halls looking for new items for my Skylane. There is always something new to see.

  4. Louis Sell
    Louis Sell says:

    I have been to OSH twice and Sun-N-Fun twice and like everything about the show. However, I will be exiting the EAA because I feel it has lost it’s way. Now it’s all about MONEY and PAC groups to lobby someone.
    The writing staff are not EAA people but lovers of factory “Cookie Cutter” airplanes, mostly Turbine (which is what got them fired at the other rag).
    I am a long time member of EAA and my interest lies in designing,building and operating my airmachine. Kits are ok (some), as long as the builder is properly challenged.
    The magazine just does not seem to care about this base anymore and the articles are proof.

  5. Jack Stewart
    Jack Stewart says:

    I would add, be a volunteer. You have not seen a great side of Airventure until you volunteer to help. This year I will be a Kidventure helping with our future, young people.
    A reply to the gentlemen who is quitting EAA. You are right in some respects about loosing their way but with the help of people like Charley Becker they are coming back to their roots and making new innovations,he just finished building a Sonex.

  6. Don Rieser
    Don Rieser says:

    I’ve been flying to Oshkosh for over 30 years, and have enjoyed everything on the above lists many times over. Since I retired and can camp under the wing of my Cessna for several days, I have discovered the forums and workshops. It is really unbelievable how much information is made available by expert volunteers, and lots of great questions and interaction with attendees.

  7. Louis Sell
    Louis Sell says:

    I REMAIN—EAA has forgotten who they serve. Yes, OSH & Sun N Fun are great—but thats 2 months out of 12!!!
    The other 10 are mostly “Page Fillers” with limited content and little usable by the subscription base.
    The only value is Mike Buschs’s column. His is one of the biggest jems to find their way into Sport Aviation.
    I’m a product of BIG round engines (28 Cyl. R-4360) and I can say his discussions are pertinent to it as well.

  8. Ed
    Ed says:

    Other OSH favorites:

    – The Donuts!!!
    – Breakfast at the Tall Pines Cafe’
    – Being awakened by the sound of radial engines and afterburners
    – Watching everyone stop and look up at the same time.

  9. Kirsten N
    Kirsten N says:

    Love the list you got there! Especially numbers 3 and 4. It’s nice to take a walk with your old friends from Oshkosh! I love keep coming back to this place.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] year.  One visitor described it as part fly-in, part convention, part family reunion, and part summer camp for adults. Over 4,000 volunteers work tirelessly to ready the grounds for the annual event.  Once […]

  2. […] welcomed more readers than ever before and tackled a wide variety of aviation topics, from the fun (why Oshkosh is great) to the serious (crashes involving family). In particular, our Special Report on the declining […]

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