AirVenture 40 and Rooting in Memory’s Bin

By Scott Spangler on May 21st, 2018

AV Sticker-3For many in aviation, attending EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is an annual touchstone and we recall our participation in many ways. Mine is a memory bin, the yellow office trash can I got from Crate & Barrel when the U.S. Navy finished with me in February 1978. It displays the Champion stickers that mark my pilgrimage in anal-retentive columns six stickers. I’m on my seventh column now, and as I have for decades, I’ll pocket my 40th Champion sticker on the first day, this year on July 23, as a token of good things to come.

Each one is a multicolored oval that highlights the year. The colors are never the same, but all of them appear to be on a ribbon  headed by EAA, with the Champion bowtie logo providing the ribbon’s tails. Individually, they are visual mnemonics that recall each year’s pilgrimage. As it is for anyone’s first time, my inaugural participation in 1978 overwhelmed me. The dominant memories are my o-dark-thirty departure and a three-hour drive for a gate-opening arrival, wandering freely along the flight line that was open only to EAA members and pilots, and setting up camp Saturday night in Schiefelbein’s cow pasture.

Other stickers recollect the weather. There was the triple-digit heat in the early 1980s, and more than a few years when I sought shelter from a deluge in a Porta-Potty. A decade later the unforecast cold weather justified the purchase of an insulated flight jacket to my first wife. And almost every year recollected a daily battle with dehydration. I won’t bore you with all the people and planes buzzing now between my ears.

AV Sticker-2Beyond the memories recalled by a sticker’s annual statement, these bits of self-adhesive vinyl trace a thumbnail history of the event they record. From 1978 to to 1997, each beribboned badge proclaimed the year of the EAA International Fly-In. In 1998, which debuted the looping jet-plane logo, it was just EAA.

In 2003, the centennial of powered flight, which is each year celebrated at Oshkosh, the sticker’s sponsor put its bowtie in a black and red box surrounded by a stylized globe and proclaimed itself Champion Aerospace. Not a bad way to start the second century of powered flight, if you ask me. 2012 was another anniversary, the 60th of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s first annual convocation, held in Milwaukee. In honor of this milestone, EAA added its new tagline: The Spirit of Aviation.

AV Sticker-1Like knowledge of the event these giveaway keepsakes commemorate, you can find the annual EAA stickers at airports worldwide, stuck to airplanes that have made oceanic flights, on windows to shared aviation spaces, or hidden away as personal displays of collected memories, like my yellow office bin. Among the memories they represent questions intrude: How did these stickers come to be? Who designed them? When did they debut, and where, Oshkosh or Rockford? It will be interesting to see if the good people at EAA and Champion can satisfy the curiosity of a repeat participant. – Scott Spangler, Editor

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One Response to “AirVenture 40 and Rooting in Memory’s Bin”

  1. Glen Towler Says:

    I hope to meet you at Oshkosh this year. I have been every year since 2012.

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