Unprecedented Rain Challenges AirVenture Logistics

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Jon Whittle

Opening day of AirVenture 2010 arrived yesterday, and this year's show has proved to be one of the most challenging in decades. With last week's torrential rains, EAA has struggled with pumping out and otherwise preparing a soggy Wittman Field in Oshkosh, bracing for the arrival of the usual complement of approximately 5,500 airplanes. As of yesterday morning's briefing, the field was open to "display" aircraft — including antiques, classics; warbirds and homebuilts as well as airshow performers' airplanes and display aircraft for manufacturers, vendors and others. Additional GA aircraft were allowed in if they had reserved parking on hard surfaces. Both FBOs on the field, Basler and Orion, have been scrambling to accommodate arrivals, shoehorning aircraft into every nook and cranny of their ramps. Many arriving aircraft diverted to satellite airports such as Appleton and Fond du Lac, as well as several smaller airports in the area where ramps were jammed with Oshkosh-bound aircraft from around the country. EAA was hoping to open more of the grass parking areas on Monday.

EAA's Camp Scholler was another victim of the heavy rains. The largest RVs were still not able to park there as of yesterday. According to EAA, state, county and city officials have been extremely cooperative in opening alternative campgrounds for the largest RVs. EAA has contributed with arranging portable toilets and running shuttle services from the alternative sites to Wittman Field. EAA director of communications Dick Knapinski was high in his praise for this year's complement of volunteers. He said, "Many of these people are putting in 20-hour work days — on their vacation." Besides the hard work, the flightline volunteers have demonstrated resourcefulness and creativity in their solutions to the imposing parking problems. EAA hasn't commented on the possible economic impact, but says that 99 percent of the people involved have been positive in exhibiting "the Oshkosh spirit."