In the English language, there must be a word that summarizes the emotional conflation of the self-satisfaction that comes from a distinctive personal accomplishment and the whispers from a subconscious troll holding up that same achievement as primary evidence of intellectual failure. It that word exists, I haven’t found it yet, but it perfectly describes my personal and professional connection to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. Or, at least, it didn’t until the Quattro Publishing Group generously offered me a copy a new book, EAA Oshkosh: The Best AirVenture Photography.”
Now preparing for the 2016 edition of AirVenture (July 24-31) I made my inaugural pilgrimage to Oshkosh in 1978, and haven’t missed a year since. And that is the source of my emotional ying and yang word search. I’m both proud and disappointed that I’ve participated in this event for more than half my life. Dedication is a contributing component of my pride, and disbelief, if that’s the right word, that I’ve not at least invested the week in pursuit of another interest because there is more to my intellectual and emotional life than airplanes.
Stepping through the book’s 220 pages, I’ve had to reassess my relationship with Oshkosh because it has recalled long-buried memories of seminal moments filed during my previous 37 visits filed in memory. Drawing on the EAA archives, the book depicts in 240 color and a few black-and-white photos the annual convention of its members from its inception in 1953 (which, coincidentally, was the year I started my life’s adventure).
The photos are collected in chapters that mirror the AirVenture flight line from north to south: Warbirds, Homebuilts, Aerobatics & Air Shows, Life at Oshkosh (the show’s “town square” display area that has been identified by its various sponsors over the decades), Vintage Aircraft, Ultralights, and the Seaplane Base. Jim Busha, Hal Bryan, and Dick Knapinski, all EAA staffers, provide succinct words of context for newcomers.
As Jack Pelton, EAA chairman and CEO (who’s done a marvelous job in completing the organization’s previously contentious transition from the founding family), said in his introduction, “EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is, more than anything, an individual experience.”
Through that lens, my first decade of participation was the best, the most eagerly anticipated and fondly remembered. Thereafter, attendance was part of my job description, with Flight Training magazine (with sweltering weeklong memories of booth duty in the old exhibit building), then with EAA itself (a behind-the curtain experience rich with greater appreciation of the effort of volunteers and staffers who make it happen each year), and now with JetWhine and others who fund my participation.
Paging my way down the visual flight line punctuated the dominant memories of work with visual call cards that led to long filed memories of face-to-face encounters with the airplanes and, more importantly, the people who gave them life. I won’t bore you with the details of my stroll down my flight line of memories, but I will offer my appreciation to the book’s creators for sharing images of a number of these individuals, with very few aviation celebrities among them. It is better that you get a copy of the book (available July 1, 2016, $24.99, from ShopEAA.org, Amazon, Barnes & Noble) and perambulate through your memories (or make your inaugural flight line stroll, which will, perhaps, motivate a long debated pilgrimage to Oshkosh).
Finishing my journey through the book, a surprise awaited me on page 224, which lists the credits. The images on the preceding pages are not individually credited, and none of them recalled a visual memory of the thousands of photos I’ve taken at AirVenture during my decades of work there, which was why reading my name among the credited photographers was a surprise. Repeated perusal of each image and comparing them to memories of AirVentures past has, so far, not made any connections. But it has changed my usual dolorous anticipation of this year’s aviation convocation to the eager anticipation I haven’t experienced in more than 20 years. I hope to see you there! –Scott Spangler, Editor