AirVenture Opens With a Squish, Closes With a Big Splash

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Jon Whittle

After a soggy start that challenged EAA AirVenture planners to the utmost, the annual Oshkosh extravaganza finished strong on Sunday. EAA President and Chairman Tom Poberezny (who hands off the title of president next month to newcomer Rod Hightower) said, "The preparations for this year's event were the most challenging in my 35 years as fly-in chairman. However, it's not how you begin, it's how you finish." With herculean effort from EAA staff and volunteers supported by state, county and local Oshkosh officials, AirVenture 2010 pushed through. Soaking rains the week before the show left acres of grass parking area unusable for the first several days of the show. Over time, standing water was pumped out and the abundant sunshine did its job. By midweek, most parking areas were open. Aircraft swarmed in from outlying airports, and untold numbers of aircraft on Wittman Field shuffled from spot to spot as volunteer line personnel made the most of every square yard of available space. (I personally moved my airplane twice, with flawless direction from the orange-vested line staff).

Here's how the final numbers stacked up for AirVenture 2010: Total attendance was listed at 535,000 (down slightly from last year's record-setting number). More than 10,000 aircraft visited Wittman Field and/or the satellite parking areas at airports in Fond du Lac and Appleton. Aircraft on display at Oshkosh numbered 2,380, including 1,106 homebuilts, 635 vintage, 374 warbirds, 115 ultralights, 120 seaplanes and 30 rotorcraft. An estimated 36,000 camped on or around Wittman Field (early on, heavy RVs were directed to several parking lots around town, and EAA trucked over portable toilets and other camping amenities). There were 2,167 international visitors from 66 nations who registered at the International Tent, though the actual number is undoubtedly much higher. And 979 media representatives reported on the show from six continents. So if you missed the mud and the fun this year, plan to make the trek in 2011, when AirVenture dates will be July 25-31.