EAA AirVenture 2012: First Impressions

By Scott Spangler on July 23rd, 2012

Since I started attending EAA AirVenture professionally, as an exhibitor in 1989, and then an employee, and now as a journalist, my greatest joy is covering the site from the North 40 to ultralights, and just letting what’s new rise up and grab my attention. Walk with me, if you will.

Before we get on site I must convey kudos to EAA for setting up the media check-in building at the intersection of Poberezny Road and Waukau Ave. Yeah, I know this doesn’t affect a lot of people, but anyone can appreciate something that was once a sometimes frustrating goat rodeo with a quick, efficient stop-and-go that send you on your way with a smile. Thank you.

AV0-10A big change is right inside the main gate: two light-sport aircraft OEMs, Flight Design and AeroTrek.  Normally they’re off the main drag that runs to what is now called Philips 66 Plaza. This year’s Ford attraction reminds me a human slingshot.

AV1-027EAA’s Learn to Fly Discovery Center is still on Main St., and it, NAFI, and SAFE are conducting daily pilot proficiency programs there. Something seemed absent from Main St., and I found that the Flying magazine tent has taken a spot over by the Brown Arch, which is awaiting a “2” to remind people of the year.

AV1-001Roaming around the four exhibit hangars requires a swivel head because the forklift drivers are being prodded by exhibitor who are running out of time. But several changes were clear in the exhibit areas in front of each pair of hangars. Sporty’s Pilot Shop has a expanded its footprint significantly, and Garmin has added a third tent to is campus, the combination Homebuilt Headquarters and Q&A Center. Nearby, the CAF was selling B-29 rides on Fifi, for $595.

AV0-19Turning north, EAA has doubled the size of its air conditioned Aviator’s Club, which provides a front row seat for the daily air show, for a price. Connected to it are five chalets that exhibitors can rent. Only one seem occupied, and the fluttering flags outside said China Pavilion. Outside each chalet is a viewing area surrounded by a white picket fence, which protrudes into the homebuilt parking area, but a ever-helpful EAA media prince confirmed that the homebuilt camping area gained more space that the flight line parking area lost.

AV1-042AV1-045Working my way through the North 40 I came across the Handicapped Aircraft Parking. A Beech Baron was the only airplane there, but sure enough, peeking out from under the silver windshield heat reflector was a blue handicapped parking tag. In walking through the parking areas, the homebuilts, warbirds, and store-bought airplanes in the North 40 seemed a bit light compared to previous years, but not by much. And airplanes continued to arrive in a steady stream during the day. All accident free.

AV1-052Passing through show center on my way to Vintage and Ultralights, I couldn’t believe me eyes. The record setting Flyin’ Tiger. The last time I saw this unique airplane, which started life as a Van’s RV-4, was 2007, after its owner and pilot Bruce Bohannon had set 30 world altitude and time to climb records. Bruce said he was there to help celebrate the 40th year of Van’s Aircraft. And like many others, I’m still trying to figure out why the Smithsonian Air & Space museum changed its mind on acquiring this unique and significant airplane.

AV0-59If you really need an excuse to visit Oshkosh this year, you should not miss the field of Cubs in the Vintage parking area. There must be at least 150 of them, and all but a few of them yellow. This bumper crop of Cubs is part of the design’s 75th birthday celebration. Thankfully, EAA has situated one of its photo platforms at the southern edge of the parking area. And rumor has it that more Cubs are on the way!

AV1-065Dragging into the ultralight area at the south end of the EAA grounds was sad. What was once a vibrant, bustling community of happy aviators is now mostly untrampled grass. Most of the OEMs are gone, either moved up field as manufacturers of LSAs or succumbed to the natural selection of the free market.

All things considered, the markers of change foretell of a good year because one thing has not changed. At every turn I met people happy to be here and willing to start a conversations, eager to find out where you’re from, what you’re flying, and what cool things you’ve already seen. –Scott

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3 Responses to “EAA AirVenture 2012: First Impressions”

  1. john hawkins Says:

    except at Oshkosh. go out to your local GA airport. Listen hard. what do you hear? silence.
    no bodys in the pattern, no body is washing their plane.
    Ga is dying. Certainly those of us who flew for fun. Though I have instrument, multi-engine commercial ratings, I never intend to give up my day job. I and numerous others have given up flying as unaffordable. It was never cheap but it was affordable. The new world of turbines, glass cockpits, lawsuits and sky high insurance rates have killed the simple pleasures just as complexity, regulation, and lawsuits(fear of) have killed the ability of young fishermen to pool their pennies and rent a boat with 5 horse kicker for a day of fishing.

    I’m glad that there are still some who can enjoy the sport.

  2. ken johnson Says:

    Another great show! My favorite new thing was the Aerochia LT-1 composite single seat aircraft. $29K for a 150mph kit plane that uses a 2 cylinder Hirth engine and burns less than 5 gph. That aircraft drives the performance/cost ratio in the right direction.

  3. Sabrina Hill Says:

    To John Hawkins I say, Perhaps in your part of the country GA is dead, but here in far west Texas, while it is not as busy as it once was, I can go out to the closest airport, and there are eight or ten pilots there every weekend, and the majority of them will be flying the pattern in the morning with their LSA qualified Classic or antique aircraft, I paid 10.000 for my 1940 BC65 back in 2003, and I own three ultralights on top of that. If anything, what has happened, is that the baby boomers are shedding their Cherokees and 172’s for “Real” LSA, not plastic ones, at least here in west Texas, that is what’s happening. Those that are not fearing the next Medical are staying out of Spam cans for purely financial reasons. For THESE people, the journey IS the destination, and they fly hom built ultralights for a mere fraction of even a “classic” LSA. Out here in rural Texas, most of us, me included, just staked out a runway, and took our riding lawn mowers and mowed the range grass to only an inch and a half to two inches high and we have our OWN private airstrip for FREE, now shy high payments to A&P’s and IA’s, and we fly to each other’s airstrips on weekends for this constantly moving BBQ. NO. my friend, the face of aviation may have chanced, but it is NOT dead by ANY means out in Rural America.

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