The Numbers Are in For AirVenture 2019

Fifty years down and many decades more to go.

EAA AirVenture Boeing Plaza crowd
AirVenture celebrated its 50th year at Oshkosh's Wittman Regional Airport.EAA

Record amounts of rain fell in the Oshkosh area just prior to the official start of this year's AirVenture, leaving campers scurrying for mud-less places to pitch tents and park RVs. By Sunday however, the sun shone brightly, almost as a sign of the week of mild temperatures to follow. In fact, no more than an occasional sprinkle from above interrupted AirVenture's celebration of this, its 50th year at Oshkosh Wittman Regional Airport (OSH). A look at the data from the show is really the best way to see the impact the nation's largest air show has on the local and worldwide aviation community.

Visitor numbers this year rose by nearly 7 percent according to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), translating into approximately 642,000 men, women and children, as well as the occasional campsite dog. On Monday, July 22, the EAA thanked Oshkosh residents for 50 years of support with free opening-day tickets. More than 8,700 Oshkosh area people accepted the invite, some 13 percent of the city's population. The association more than pays its own way according to a 2017 University of Wisconsin economic impact study that shows $170 million was generated for the five counties in the Oshkosh region (Winnebago, Outagamie, Fond du Lac, Calumet, and Brown).

More than 10,000 aircraft landed at Wittman Regional and other airports in east-central Wisconsin with 16,807 aircraft operations – one landing and one takeoff – in the 11-day period, averaging 127 takeoffs/landings per hour. The most patient of all visitors this year had to be campers who early on wrestled with sloppy ground conditions and bumper-to-bumper backups while rain-induced problems got sorted out. Many vehicles had to be towed out by local tractors when they became stuck in the mud. Despite that, EAA said more than 12,300 sites in aircraft and drive-in camping accounted for an estimated 40,000 visitors.

If visitors found themselves worn out from walking the aircraft parking grounds, it was with good reason. This year, “some 2,758 [aircraft] visited the grounds, made up of 1,057 homebuilt aircraft (including a record 592 homebuilt aircraft campsites), 939 vintage airplanes, 400 warbirds (a 6 percent increase), 188 ultralights and light-sport aircraft, 105 seaplanes (a 40 percent increase), 62 aerobatic aircraft, and 7 in other categories,” according to EAA.

From sun up to sundown, the skies were endlessly busy with EAA aircraft carrying visitors aboard the association’s Tri-Motors, Bell Helicopters and the B-17 Aluminum Overcast. EAA said 3,051 people flew aboard EAA’s Ford Tri-Motors, with slightly more than that-3,173 people-riding on one of the many Bell 47 helicopters that never seem to run out of gas. Six hundred sixty-nine people enjoyed rides on the B-17.

Like never before, EAA’s social media channels were cooking during AirVenture with more than 17.6 million people reached. The association’s website recorded more than 2.1 million page views with EAA video clips viewed 4.5 million times and EAA’s 2,740 photo uploads more than 13.3 million times. EAA said web surfers accessed web streams more than 1.6 million times from more than 200 countries. Viewers watched more than 315,000 hours of activities from the AirVenture grounds. I was happy this year to again be part of EAA Radio that reached more than 104,000 listeners in 158 countries with 6,735 hours of audio, and more than 47,000 viewers of 405,000 minutes of streaming video. And no, not all of this was me.

The EAA Aviation Foundation’s annual event to support its aviation education programs attracted some 1,400 people and raised more than $2.8 million dollars that will be focused on EAA’s mission of growing participation in aviation.

Without a cadre of volunteers, of course, AirVenture simply couldn’t work, This year more than 5,500 people contributed in excess of 250,000 volunteer hours. Mark your calendars for next year. AirVenture 2020 begins July 20.