The 2011 edition of AirVenture Oshkosh was one for the ages. The weather was beautiful, the airplanes, and there were a lot of them, were spectacular, and the politics were, well, intriguing.
The show got off on a very strange note when AirVenture Chairman Tom Poberezny called it quits by retiring at high noon by the original brown EAA Arch on the very first day of the 2011 show. Poberezny, who had been in charge of EAA from the late 1980s up until that Monday morning gave no specific reason for leaving the show or for leaving the organization. The EAA, for its part, wanted to talk about the event as little as possible. In its daily rundown of the events of Monday, it included a note about Poberezny’s retirement as the third item in its list. Clearly, there was a lot going on behind the scenes.
Somewhat remarkably, the show went on fine from there.
The weather with the exception of some rain on Wednesday and some wind on the final weekend was spectacular, with clear skies and warm but pleasant temperatures. This resulted predictably in massive numbers of airplanes more than 10,000 arriving in Wisconsin for the festivities. The EAA used to count airplanes that landed at Oshkosh and one its few satellite airports, but apparently now it counts airplanes that arrive at any Eastern or Central Wisconsin airport. Which makes sense. How many tourists fly into Green Bay in late July with football players locked out to do anything but go to AirVenture?
Some of the airplanes that arrived were simply breathtaking. Flying got to tour the Boeing 787-800, which was at the show for just one glorious day the futuristic jet left Seattle at 4 a.m. in the pitch dark with a sliver of a rising moon, the pilot told me, to be in Oshkosh in time for getting lots of folks through the interior of the mostly-carbon fiber airliner.
Another big Boeing, this one called FIFI, wowed the crowd all week long. The lone flying B-29 in the world was arguably the star of the show.