Many things have to fall into place for a skiplane fly-in to come together, and each is a moving target. A nice snow base is needed, the snow itself shouldn’t be too icy or slushy, and of course ceilings, winds, and visibility need to be conducive to flying. Fortunately, all converged perfectly on Saturday, February 22, at Pioneer Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for the EAA’s first annual Winter Flight Fest.
A combination of the event formerly known as Family Flight Fest and the traditional Skiplane Fly-In, the first Winter Flight Fest provided visitors with a variety of interactive activities, such as a radio-controlled aircraft demo, a scavenger hunt and a model contest, all held inside the EAA Museum adjacent to Pioneer Field. Shuttle buses provided regular transport between the museum and the skiplane parking area, where visitors could observe flight operations, see the skiplanes up close, and chat with the pilots and owners in person.
Clear blue skies and temperatures that climbed into the upper 30s welcomed approximately 1,600 people, 27 skiplanes, and one helicopter to the 1988-ft grass runway located within Wittman Regional Airport’s airspace. Pattern work was not permitted, limiting each skiplane pilot to their arrival landing. There is hope this will change in the future, allowing visitors to observe ongoing pattern work in a manner similar to the ultralight runway’s flight operations during AirVenture.
The integration of the two events into the new Winter Flight Fest is a welcome change to the fly-in calendar as it not only provides a great contingency plan should conditions be unsuitable for skiplane operations, it also offers adults and children alike a day of aviation fun that might otherwise be lacking in the middle of a long Wisconsin winter.