The Oshkosh Effect

EAA's annual fly-in is often the place where a lifelong passion for avaition takes wing.

Courtesy of EAA

Who's psyched for Oshkosh? I know I am. And I'm pretty sure Robert Goyer is, too, even if he isn't saying so. This will be my first trip back to EAA AirVenture since 2004 after making many such pilgrimages with my dad as a kid. At my last job I was lucky enough to get to cover the Paris Air Show, Farnborough Air Show, Asian Aerospace in Singapore, EBACE in Geneva, the Dubai Air Show and others, but rarely did I ever visit the Oshkosh or Sun n' Fun fly-in extravaganzas. I won't lie, it was a little strange this June to have missed Paris for the first time in 14 years, but it sure feels great to be headed back to the world's best air show (sorry Paris, you most certainly are très magnifique, but Oshkosh is the king in my book.)

As I said, I used to make the trip to the EAA fly-in each year, spending part of every summer away from my home in New Jersey to stay with my grandparents on their farm about 40 miles northwest of Oshkosh in Waupaca, Wisconsin. What I remember most vividly about those boyhood summers – besides the smell of the hay in the dusty barns (and the hay fever), the bike rides that lingered for many hours and miles, and the strange looks I'd get when I asked for a “soda” and not a “pop” – were, of course, the airplanes at Oshkosh. There were more airplanes at Wittman Regional than I’d imagined I’d ever see in one place – P-51 Mustangs, B-17 Bombers, Long EZs, Pitts biplanes, Stearmans, Aeroncas, Stinsons, Harrier jump jets – all of them aligned in orderly rows, some accompanied by tents under the wing, others merely glinting in the Wisconsin sunshine as judges affixed well-deserved awards to a select few.

Oshkosh is where my aviation education really started, and it continued, of course, by reading magazines like Flying,__ and later when I turned 15 and started taking flying lessons in a Piper Cub at my local airport_._

I don’t know when it happened precisely, but at some point in my childhood I’d become irrevocably ensnared by the intoxicating pull of aviation.

Oshkosh did that – just as Paul Poberezny knew it might when he held the first EAA fly-in back in 1953.

By the early 1980s when I started visiting Oshkosh, the event was already the international phenomenon it is today, with hundreds of thousands of aviation enthusiasts congregating near the shores of Lake Winnebago for a week of good fun with good people building lasting memories together.

Like me, many of them were children. Also like me, you can be sure that those among them who are predestined to start their own love affairs with aviation will see their passions sparked at AirVenture next week.

Call it "The Oshkosh Effect."

I can’t wait to see it happening.