AirVenture – A Learning Experience

Airshows energize me. No, I’m not talking about the hotdogs or the fried food. It’s the energy generated by a large group of people with a mutual passion for airplanes that fuels me. This week, one of the largest gatherings of aviation aficionados can be found at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the 2011 AirVenture airshow. After years of attending the show, I still get excited about the unbelievable aerobatic performances, and the never-ending sea of airplanes - anything from antique wood-and-fabric birds to modern, massive airliners. And while the spectacle is stunning, AirVenture is also a great place to learn about flying.

There are literally hundreds of forums and workshops presented every day during the show. I challenge you to find a serious aviation topic that is not covered. Seminars on how to learn to fly, improve flying skills, reduce risk, buy or sell an airplane, and how to use the multitude of new technological aviation tools that keep emerging are just a few examples of what’s on the menu. And this year, because of the 100th anniversary of naval flight, a special daily forum called “Naval Centennial” will take place at 10 am at the Welcome Center.

At the EAA Learn to Fly Discovery Center, near the center of the show grounds, you can meet with instructors who can answer your questions about learning to fly and even take you for a flight in a Redbird or Lockheed Martin flight simulator. Young Eagles who visit the Learn to Fly Discovery Center can sign up for the EAA’s Flight Plan program, which provides a free EAA student membership, courtesy of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and grants access to an online flight training course, a free first flight lesson and flight training scholarship opportunities, all from Sporty’s.

If you head from the Learn to Fly Discovery Center toward runway 18R-36L, you’ll run into the vintage area, which is always full of unusual, interesting and beautiful airplanes, often with owners who are thrilled to teach walkers-by about their history. If you have a passion for building airplanes, head north from the vintage area, and soon you’ll run into a large area dedicated to homebuilt airplanes. Many of the forums and workshops also delve deep into construction and installation topics. In the warbird area, you can learn about the military heritage of aviation. There are generally rows of beautifully restored P-51 Mustangs, F4U Corsairs, AT-6 or SNJ Texans, and Yaks, just to name a few.

Once you’re tired of wandering around outside, you can step into the hangars. Even if you don’t have the money to buy the latest and greatest in aviation equipment, avionics and toys on display, walking through the hangars and talking to the vendors can be very educational.

With so many areas to visit and forums and workshops to attend, it’s a good thing the show runs for an entire week. And if you need help finding your way around the massive airshow grounds to make your learning experience more efficient, there is an AirVenture app for that.

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