AirVenture Air Traffic Went Virtual This Year

Many AirVenture visitors enjoy simply listening to the ATC chatter each year at the show. Courtesy PilotEdge

If you’ve ever flown into AirVenture, you understand well that it can be an emotional rollercoaster of excitement, fear and awe all rolled into just the leg from the Fisk reporting point until turning off the runway into the grass after landing. Each year the control tower at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh helps turn it into the busiest airport in the world for a portion of AirVenture week, as hundreds of flying machines of all shapes and sizes come and go on a daily basis. It’s not at all unusual to see AirVenture visitors planted in a chair along the side of the runway armed only with a battery-powered VHF radio enjoying the experience of tracking the bee’s nest of aircraft activity from KOSH tower.

This year the airport was quiet during what would have been AirVenture, as we highlighted with our photo collage on July 27. Because of the virus, the show’s famous pink-shirted air traffic controllers were nowhere to be seen. But behind the scenes, a few controllers were hard at work handling AirVenture’s arriving and departing traffic—virtually—as part of SimVenture 2020.

Keith Smith, founder of PilotEdge, a service that provides virtual ATC services for simulator pilots, said, “Real-world air traffic controllers, in cooperation with NATCA, will be staffing Fisk Approach and Oshkosh Tower to allow pilots to fly the famous Fisk Arrival into Oshkosh complete with wing rocks, fast-paced ATC and hundreds of other aircraft; all from the comfort of your flight simulator (running X-Plane). These controllers have worked the real AirVenture many years before, bringing a level of realism that is virtually indistinguishable from the actual event.”

Visitors without simulators were able to hook up for a portion of SimVenture and catch the nearly real action of AirVenture through a YouTube feed. In case you don’t have time to watch the nearly five-hour archived event, we’ve captured about more than five minutes of ATC audio from this year’s SimVenture 2020 to get the juices flowing for AirVenture 2021. While SimVenture 2020 was indeed impressive, most of us are hoping for the real thing next year.

SimVenture 2020 was a co-creation of PilotEdge, Mindstar Aviation, EAA, and NATCA.

Rob MarkAuthor
Rob Mark is an award-winning journalist, business jet pilot, flight instructor, and blogger.

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