Last Friday, I spent a day at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wi for EAA AirVenture. EAA stands for Experimental Aircraft Association. This is an annual, week-long event that brings EAA members and aviation enthusiasts together from all corners of the world. Just to give you an idea of the size of this event, according to the EAA website, there were approximately 550,000 attendees, 10,000 aircraft arriving at Wittman Regional Airport and other airports in the area, and guests registered from over 80 nations. For the week of EAA AirVenture, Wittman Regional Airport is the busiest airport in the world. I’ve been going to EAA for the past few years so I can tell you from experience that I’ve never seen an airport anywhere near as busy as that place. If you look in the sky in any direction, at any given moment, there are single planes and groups of planes flying in formation to and from the Airport. They employ the best air traffic controllers in the world for the week-long event known as the World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration. The EAA website really describes it best: “Whether you’re an aviation enthusiast or an aviation novice, AirVenture has something for you. No matter what your age, you’ll be entertained, informed, and thrilled by the countless activities available that reflect “The Spirit of Aviation” all around. Daily air shows. Aerobatics and pyrotechnics. Nightly concerts. Feature films at the Fly-In Theater. Forums, workshops, and demonstrations. KidVenture. Special programming at Theater in the Woods, plus much, much more is included with your daily admission.” That quote from the EAA website is quite accurate.
I’ve been interested in aviation since I was a little kid. That interest is what prompted my nine years in the Air Force and keeps me excited about going to air shows and events like this. A huge part of the event is called Warbirds In Review. This is a daily session hosted by the EAA Warbirds of America that digs into an aircraft’s restoration, operation, and other aspects of owning a valued piece of history, and also spotlights veterans sharing stories about what it was like to fly the aircraft in combat or support the operation as a ground crew member. The day I attended, they highlighted the F-100 Super Sabre, which was the first U.S. Air Force fighter capable of supersonic speed in level flight. They also highlighted the B-17 Bomber, owned by Yankee Air Force, with actor Gary Sinise, Lt. Dan from the movie Forrest Gump and of the TV series CSI: NY. Sinise is also a true patriot and supporter of many veterans projects through his Gary Sinise Foundation. His uncle Jack was a B-17 navigator who served in World War II and a brother-in-law was a medic in Vietnam. Sinise also lead his Lt. Dan Band in a concert later that evening.
Of course, what would the World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration be without airshows? They hold daily airshows that feature performances by some of the best aerobatic pilots in the world, The EAA Warbirds of America, and many other rare and unique flying machines. Let me restate that I love going to and photographing air shows. I’ve seen the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds many, many times. While I definitely enjoy seeing them, their performances tend to be some form of the same thing. Every year that I go to AirVenture, I end up walking out of there absolutely blown away by the air shows. The viewers of the air shows sit right on the flightline and get an up close and personal view of the performances. When the pyrotechnics go off, you feel the heat! The Warbirds simulate bombing runs while the announcer describes the wartime scenario that one would see the type of performance on display. The show gives an era-correct depiction of the type of combat the performing aircraft would see. The Warbird demonstration began with early Vietnam era planes including the aforementioned F-100 Super Sabre and the A-4 Skyhawk, then moved on to one of my personal favorites, the F-4 Phantom, and an amazing performance by the AV-8b Harrier, and the modern and always impressive F-22 Raptor. They wrapped it all up with a Heritage flight featuring the F-22, P-38, and P-51. I ended up with well over 800 pictures for the day and didn’t even get to see everything since the event is so big, that it’s virtually impossible to cover the entire grounds and see everything in one day. I haven’t finished going through them but here are a handful of the ones from the day. I’ll write a new post when I’m finished processing all of the images. If you are even remotely interested in aviation, I highly suggest checking this annual event out. It started out being a bucket-list type event for me and has grown into an annual must-attend part of my airshow lineup. Maybe it’ll become that for you too!
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