EAA AirVenture Oshkosh Report

Monday 23rd July - Sunday 29th July 2012

For many aviation lovers from around the world, for one week every year Oshkosh becomes the place to be as over 10,000 aircraft and 500,000 visitors head to Oshkosh for the EAA Airventure fly-in convention.

Peter Reoch headed across the pond to report for UKAR, with additional photography from Trevor Reoch.

Oshkosh is commonly referred to as the world's largest airshow, and it's scale is simply hard to image beforehand. This year's event was as big as usual attracting over 10,000 aircraft ranging from the unique ORBIS DC-10 'Flying Eye Hospital' to collection of over one hundred Piper J3 Cubs to celebrate the types 75th anniversary. The variety of types and vast numbers on show is staggering, but the dynamic nature of the aircraft on show is also very different to anything we see in the UK. Aircraft are coming and going all week, which can lead to some very pleasant surprises as surprise aircraft turn up, but also disappointment as aircraft disappear without warning.

Warbirds lovers were treated with three whole fields full of aircraft, including new restorations such as the A-36 Apache "Baby Carmen", PV-2 Harpoon "Attu Warrior", C-46 Commando "Tinker Belle" and B-25J Mitchell "Georgie's Gal". The warbird area at Oshkosh simply has to be experienced to be believed - where else in the world can you sit under the wings of a P-40 Kittyhawk watching the sunset over twenty or so P-51 Mustangs?!

Military participation also varies through-out the week, with the locally based F-16 & KC-135 being the only aircraft there for the duration. The US Navy supported the show well with various aircraft coming and going all week including an E-2C Hawkeye, P-3C Orion and various training aircraft. One main criticism I have of the show is that many aircraft which turned up for static display were parked airside and never dragged over to "Phillips 66 Plaza", which is the only area where modern aircraft can be accommodated. Over the weekend a T-38 Talon, E/A-18G Growler and four T-45 Goshawks, which were all due to be on static display, simply sat on the far side of the airfield for some unknown reason; a poor effort in my eyes.

Like the static park, the daily airshow line-ups were differing. During the week (Monday - Thursday) the afternoon airshows followed a similar pattern of a 'aircraft showcase', a small selection of warbirds and then the aerobatic acts, in all about four hours of flying. The days are themed, and generally the airshow follows the theme of the day. The only disappointment in my view was Thursday being billed as "Jets Day", yet the afternoon's flying only included a sole F-86, T-33 and a number of L-39's.

The main airshows are really Friday & Saturday which including the "Warbird Extravaganza", which this year had the "Tora! Tora! Tora!" display team making their Oshkosh debut. Throw in a B-29, masses of Texans, Mustangs, Fennecs, and a whole host of other warbirds and you've got 90 minutes of spectacular aerial action! Another highlight appearing on Friday and Saturday was the USAF Heritage Flight, consisting of an A-10 from Davis-Monthan AFB and P-38 "Glacier Girl" - a surprisingly graceful combination. Not wanting to be outdone in any way, the US Navy performed a "Tailhook Legacy Flight" on the weekend, with the F/A-18C (which also performed it's solo tactical demonstration on Friday, Saturday & Sunday) joining with a A-4 Skyhawk and T-2 Buckeye on the Saturday. Overseas military participation was limited to the Canadian parachute display team "The SkyHawks" after budget cuts forced the cancellation of the Brazilian "Smoke Squadron" who were due to appear.

The quality of variety of solo aerobatic acts at the show was also staggering, with far too many displays to list. Ranging from Chuck Aaron flying the infamous Red Bull BO-105 to Kyle Franklin's comedy routine in a Super Cub. Sean D Tucker appeared in his unique Oracle Challenger III aircraft and put on a show-stopping routine, some of the manoeuvres simply need to be seen to be believed! A surprise highlight was "Team RV" who fly a 12-ship of homebuilt Vans RV-8's. Their routine was extremely well choreographed routine with something always happening right in front of the crowd. Other notable items in the flying display included the Iron Eagles display team, Rimowa's JU-52 which had flown over from Germany, Super Corsair, Melissa Pemberton in her Edge 540, T-6 Texan II solo display and Bob Odegaard flying the Shrike Commander - with no engines on!

Oshkosh has also become famous in recent years for the Saturday night airshow and firework spectacular. Seeing the AeroShell team flying in close formation, at night is something really special but the highlight of the night is the "wall of fire" which concludes the fireworks display. Night airshows are something really special and hopefully more shows in the UK can incorporate them into their current events.

Whilst Oshkosh is often referred to as an airshow, I think the description "Aviation Celebration" is much more applicable, due to the size and atmosphere of the event. List everything you hate about UK airshows… at Oshkosh it's the complete opposite. The catering is brilliant, a huge selection of food in multiple outlets with plenty of clean seating areas, and all at very reasonable prices! The crowdline was a simple burn line in the grass, there was no pushing or battles for position, it was a friendly atmosphere where everyone chatted like they were best friends.

For most of the days we sat under the wings of aircraft, to get some shade, during the flying displays. Barriers around aircraft seems to be a foreign concept at Oshkosh (with the static F-16 being the only aircraft on the whole site with any form of barrier surrounding it). Everyone on the site has a true passion for aviation and it just creates such a brilliant environment for everyone. Pilots and aircraft owners are genuinely excited to show off their aircraft and happy to show you in the cockpits or talk about the history of the aircraft etc. There are also so many interesting forums and talks on a number of interest areas - there's too much to fit into one trip!

It's pretty hard to draw a conclusion on an event like EAA Airventure at Oshkosh, all I can say is that it's probably the most enjoyable aviation experience of my life and can't highly recommend it enough to others!