EAA AirVenture 2018 Has An Unusual Start

By Scott Spangler on July 23rd, 2018

AV0-17No two repetitions of the the annual gathering of the aviation faithful at EAA AirVenture at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, are the same. But in attending the event for the 40th time, I can honestly say that all of them share clearly defined family traits. Until this year.

What makes it feel really different I can’t exactly put my finger on, so forgive what is sure to be a wandering stream of consciousness puzzle piecing that is searching for a more focused picture. It was weird that no matter where I walked about on setup Sunday, aka AirVenture Day Zero, I didn’t see a lot of people.

Let’s start with the one above. That’s Row 331 in Homebuilt Camping at about 1300 on Sunday, Day Zero. Mother Nature is always a controlling factor, but I’ve never seen this area, and Homebuilt Showplane Parking, which parallels the flight line, so empty. Normally, there are lot more impatient pilots who see the bad weather forming and cut out of work to beat it to Oshkosh. But not this year.

Normally, even when the weather is bad, which it has been for the five preceding days, there’s always  a throng of “civilians” (those not involved in setup, making the area defined by the exhibit hangars a dodge-em course for forklift drivers and others trying to get ready for the show.

AV0-10Having spent two decades as an exhibitor, the civilians have always made setup complicated, but like many other aspects of Oshkosh, it was something you just had to deal with. This year EAA did something about it. The exhibit areas were a restricted area, unless you had one of these distinctive orange lanyards. (And the volunteers, who politely turned away the civilians who tried to enter the restricted area, did let me take a peak with my media pass.) Nice job, EAA! The exhibitors I talked to loved the new restrictions, and I didn’t hear any of the civilians griping that they could not wander among the grumbling beasts with the four little wheels and long steel tusks.

I’m guessing that the exhibitors were less happy with the relative absence of civilian traffic on Monday, Day 1. Walking through the four exhibit hangars this afternoon, they weren’t exactly empty, but they were not filled with a lot of people. Maybe that’s because it seems EAA has again widened the rows that separate the facing lines of booths. And the occupants of those booths continues their transition from aviation-related companies to more consumer products like jewelry and vibrating massage recliners.

AV1-90Perhaps more important, Mother Nature threw off her blanket of clouds on Sunday afternoon and almost within minutes airplanes recreated what was close to an aerial version of the settlers’ invasion of the Oklahoma’s Indian territory in 1889. Making my way north through Homebuilt Showplane Parking, I waded through a sea of airplanes to reach Row 331 in Homebuilt Camping. As you can see, a few people and their airplanes showed up in the past 24 hours. Hats off the the air traffic controllers who funneled them to the marshaling crew that got them safely to their campsites. After the disconcerting start, the comforting family traits of airplanes and friendly people have reasserted themselves. But what will tomorrow bring? – Scott Spangler, Editor


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