The Biggest (Air) Present on Earth

The annual EAA AirVenture occasion at Oshkosh, Wisconsin stays the most important aviation celebration on the planet. STEPHEN BRIDGEWATER experiences from his newest pilgrimage to ‘Aviation mecca’.

During the last 5 many years the Experimental Plane Affiliation (EAA) AirVenture occasion at Oshkosh, Wisconsin has gained a popularity as the most important, friendliest and most various aviation occasion on the planet.

I first attended the occasion in 2003 and this yr was my tenth go to to this ‘mecca’ of aviation. It’s tough to clarify to anyone who has by no means been, however AirVenture is an element airshow, half tradeshow and half pageant.

Folks go to from throughout the globe to satisfy previous pals, make new ones and take in the environment. In truth, AirVenture is usually likened to Brigadoon – for it’s a mysterious city that seems for just one week of the yr after which disappears leaving its lovers pining for its eventual return.

Airborne arrivals

Time to buzz the tower! For one week of the yr this tower turns into the busiest on the planet. (Stephen Bridgewater/RAeS)

With greater than 10,000 plane on web site throughout the week-long conference, simply coordinating the arrivals is an air site visitors management tour de drive.

Plane as various as ultralights, kitplanes, classic biplanes, piston- and jet-powered warbirds and trendy navy plane arrive from all corners of the USA and even additional afield and this yr 65 FAA controllers guided them to a secure arrival on the hallowed Wittman Area tarmac.

In keeping with the FAA: “The controllers are divided into 16 groups of 4 individuals every. One veteran controller serves because the staff chief and a second veteran may be a part of the staff. Every of those controllers could have three or extra years of earlier EAA AirVenture expertise.

“No less than one member of the staff could have one to 2 years of EAA AirVenture expertise. This group is recognized because the Restricted class. The ultimate member of every staff might be new to AirVenture obligation and is recognized as a Rookie.”

You will need to notice that even an “Oshkosh rookie” has a few years of coaching and expertise and is a Licensed Skilled Controller (CPC) in his or her dwelling facility.
These groups keep collectively all through the conference as they rotate by means of the Oshkosh management tower, the Fond du Lac tower, at FISK VFR Method Management and on the cellular departure platforms referred to as MOOCOWs (Cellular Working and Communications Workstations).

Elsewhere, further FAA controllers are on obligation all through the US Midwest to tackle further workload and accountability to make sure flights to and from AirVenture are as secure and environment friendly as doable.

“Rock your wings”

Not a lot rocking his wings as waving on the crowd, Skip Stewart appeared throughout the airshow section in his Pitts Particular-based Prometheus II biplane. (Stephen Bridgewater/RAeS)

Arriving on the VFR preliminary strategy level on the metropolis of Ripon at 1,800ft, the NOTAM advises pilots to gradual to 90kts, take heed to the ATIS frequency after which swap over to Fisk strategy management and begin listening. Unusually, you don’t make a radio name to announce your presence, pilots await a message that matches the outline of their plane – for instance “pink and yellow excessive winger”.

As they strategy the city of Fisk, the controllers (utilizing binoculars) will visually determine the arrivals and pilots then obtain the long-lasting “rock your wings” name. That is to make sure that they’re, certainly, the meant plane and your will then be given your touchdown clearance. At this level, an inbound pilot has nonetheless not made a name on their radio!

On the dot

The Boeing Eco Demonstrator was one of many bigger guests to AirVenture 2022. (Stephen Bridgewater/RAeS)

The usually quiet Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH) is a hub of exercise throughout the week, in truth 27% of its annual operations happen within the ten days that the AirVenture NOTAM is in impact. Much more spectacular is that KOSH turns into the busiest airport on the planet throughout the seven days of the occasion.

These mass arrivals are accommodated in a quite simple method, with pilots advised to land on colored dots on the runways. Every measuring 50ft in diameter, the white, inexperienced and orange dots are on Runway 9/27 and blue, pink, yellow and purple dots may be discovered on Runway 18/36. The latter runway can be a twin strip, separated as 36L and 36R.

Moderately than ready for every incoming plane to land and exit the runway separately, the dots enable AirVenture controllers to land a number of plane directly. Regular FAA guidelines name for 3,000ft separation between touchdown single-engined plane however an exemption is granted to permit 1,500ft distancing on the occasion and it’s common to see dozens of plane streaming in on lengthy last to land on the dots.

They function each easy-to-spot reference factors for pilots and the proper approach for controllers to gage separation. So, from arriving at Fisk, a typical AirVenture strategy ‘dialog’ would possibly sound one thing like:

ATC: “Pink and yellow excessive winger, rock your wings.”
ATC: “Pink and yellow excessive winger, cleared to land runway three six left, yellow dot”
Pilot: “Pink and yellow excessive winger, three six left, yellow dot”

No additional radio transmissions are required or anticipated however pilots are invariably greeted with a pleasant “Welcome to Oshkosh” upon landing and you’ll often hear a “nice touchdown” or “good airplane” acknowledgement from an enthusiastic controller.

Touchdown on the dots at Oshkosh is a ceremony of passage for a lot of pilots, and one thing I’ve been fortunate sufficient to on three events. It definitely makes for a treasured logbook entry.

The most recent and biggest

Fancy an F-35 however do not have the finances? The Greek-designed Archon SF-1 might be only for you! (Stephen Bridgewater/RAeS)

For a lot of, AirVenture is only a fly-in, a celebration and a pageant of the air however it’s more and more turning into an necessary tradeshow, with exhibitors bringing their newest merchandise and future design ideas to share with the educated and enthusiastic viewers.

This yr was no exception and Daher Aerospace unveiled its Kodiak 900 on the opening day of the present. It’s a 1.2 metre stretch of the sooner Kodiak 100 and boasts a 900hp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT-6A-140 rather than the 750hp unit in its predecessor. This provides the brand new Kodiak the next cruise velocity of 210kts (as an alternative of 183kts), the next helpful load and an elevated vary. Deliveries are slated to start in January 2023, whereas the Kodiak 100 Collection III may even stay in manufacturing.
Textron Aviation’s seventy fifth anniversary particular version Beechcraft Bonanza additionally debuted at AirVenture. It honours the legendary Olive Ann Beech and options the ‘Mrs Beech Blue’ color adopted by Walter Beech’s spouse on the recommendation of designer Oleg Cassini. The commemorative Bonanza G36 incorporates the color on the outside paint scheme and the inside’s window panels, carpet and accents.

Kitplanes stay a key focus at AirVenture and among the many stars at this yr’s occasion was the F-35-esque SF-1 Archon, which is powered by a selection of 80-140hp Rotax engines in a ducted fan type configuration. SportairUSA had been taking deposits for mid-2023 deliveries throughout the present.

The mock-up of the brand new six-seat Comp Air 6.2 kitplane was additionally on present. Will probably be out there with a selection of piston or turbine engines and Comp Air will run a factory-based programme enabling builders to finish their plane in 4 weeks. The equipment, much less engine, engine mount, paint, upholstery, battery, avionics and propeller was being marketed at $125,000.

Future flight

Minnesota-based Skylab Engineering showcased the part-completed prototype of its hybrid electrical plane. (Stephen Bridgewater/RAeS)

Seeking to the long run, the Ampaire hybrid-electric EEL demonstrator plane flew 1,879 miles from Camarillo, California to Oshkosh and the journey included the longest nonstop flight ever made by a hybrid-electric plane (1,135 miles). Primarily based on the twin-engine Cessna 337 Skymaster, the EEL is a parallel hybrid, retaining one typical piston engine and with one unbiased electrical drivetrain. Ampaire say it demonstrated gasoline financial savings of as much as 40% versus a typical plane.

There was important curiosity in electrical, hybrid and different sustainable energy sources at AirVenture 2022. Electrical Energy Methods (EPS) and Safran unveiled the brand new 130kW ENGINeUS 100 electrical motor designed for the Diamond eDA40. EPS gives the battery pack – referred to as a ‘string’ – with half the batteries below the cowling and half in a stomach pod below the fuselage. The batteries are solely liquid-cooled throughout the recharge course of, when most warmth is generated, whereas most different techniques are always cooled.

Elsewhere, Aeromarine displayed a wing part from its Merlin Lite Excessive STOL DEPOD (Distributed Electrical Energy On Demand) prototype. With double-slotted Fowler flaps, vanguard slats, blown ailerons and DEPOD motors mounted throughout the wing the corporate claims the two-seater can take-off and land in lower than 100ft, making it appropriate for operations from helipads.

In the meantime, Minnesota-based Skylab Engineering showcased the part-completed prototype of its hybrid electrical plane. In keeping with the corporate the plane could have a MTOW of round 1,900lbs, a variety of 575 miles and be powered by a gasoline-fuelled genset positioned aft of the cockpit, though it finally plans to modify to a completely electrical energy answer when one exists. Crucially, it makes use of distributed electrical thrust to allow blown wing know-how and an emergency battery able to flying the machine for 12 minutes if the genset fails.

Boeing’s newest ecoDemonstrator made its first public look throughout the present and was open for inner excursions for a lot of the week. The general public additionally had the possibility to fly the Opener Blackfly eVTOL simulator and watch Wyatt Warner demonstrated the actual assume within the airshow. This single-place craft is aimed on the proprietor/pilot leisure market and powered by eight electrical motors. It’s not a tiltwing or tiltrotor design, as an alternative, the complete plane modifications pitch from a forty five diploma nostril up angle on the bottom to stage in flight.

Aeromarine’s Merlin Lite Excessive STOL DEPOD (Distributed Electrical Energy On Demand) prototype makes use of motors mounted throughout the wing to blow air throughout the flying controls. (Stephen Bridgewater/RAeS)


The sixtieth anniversary of Pete Bowers’ well-known Fly Child kitplane was marked throughout the present. (Stephen Bridgewater/RAeS)

The EAA was based to take care of the wants of homebuilder and those that construct their very own plane from kits or plans are nonetheless the essence of this pageant of flight. The onsite EAA Museum pays homage to a number of the legendary, iconic, prolific or one-off personal designs which have graced the skies and out on the airfield the location is awash with newly accomplished or returning plane inbuilt hangars, garages and eating rooms throughout the USA. This yr, 1,156 homebuilt plane had been in attendance with a number of necessary varieties additionally marking milestone anniversaries.

Probably the most uncommon homebuilt plane designs, the delta winged Dyke Delta marked its sixtieth anniversary, as did the Bowers Fly Child whereas half centuries had been celebrated by the EAA Acro Sport (designed by EAA founder Paul Poberezny), the Rutan VariViggen and the Van’s RV collection.

Van’s half century

As a part of the Van’s fiftieth anniversary programme 50 RV designs overflew the airshow on Monday in formation. (Stephen Bridgewater/RAeS)

“Whereas plane kits have existed for greater than a century, it was 50 years in the past that Richard ‘Van’ VanGrunsven launched a mannequin that might transfer the homebuilt motion into an age the place equipment plane would turn into dominant,” mentioned Charlie Becker, EAA’s director of chapters and homebuilt neighborhood supervisor throughout the present. “Immediately, greater than 11,000 accomplished RV fashions are the direct descendants of that first RV-3 in 1972.

Greater than 400 kits annually are shipped to builders all over the world from the Van’s manufacturing unit in Aurora, Oregon and Van himself was available throughout the week to satisfy a lot of pilots whose goals of proudly owning their very own plane had turn into actuality because of his designs.

Developed from a Stitts Playboy, the primary RV-1 is now on show within the museum at Oshkosh and elsewhere it was doable to see examples of each RV design but produced from RV-3 to RV-14, other than the only real RV-5 (The RV-2 was by no means accomplished and the RV-13 designation was skipped for superstitious causes).

The all-new RV-15

The Van’s RV-15 was so common that the one likelihood to {photograph} it with no crowd round it was at evening! (Stephen Bridgewater/RAeS)

Van additionally selected AirVenture 2022 to unveil his newest design, the RV-15. Though hundreds of RVs have now been constructed and flown the RV-15 is the primary excessive wing mannequin to hitch the vary. It first flew in June and is claimed to take off and land in lower than 400ft and have a high velocity in stage flight of at the very least 140kts.

The prototype was swamped with keen spectators all through the week and if this consideration is any indication of potential success we should always see squadrons of RV-15s taking to the air in years to return.

Classic & Traditional

Spectacular line up of basic Howard DGA plane. Benny Howard named his design the DGA because it was a “Rattling Good Airplane”. (Stephen Bridgewater/RAeS)

For AirVenture week the 1,400 acre airfield is split into sections with warbirds, kitplanes, ultralights and classic and basic plane all having distinct zones.Throughout the classic and basic sector, guests may this yr peruse gems comparable to a Curtiss JN-4 ‘Jenny’ – which albeit a new-build instance created to authentic plans was merely gorgeous. Becoming a member of it had been myriad Wacos, Stinsons, Stearmans, Fairchilds and different classic varieties alongside rarities comparable to Howard DGAs, Lockheed 12s and one in all simply two Howard 500s nonetheless flying.

Douglas DC-3s and Grumman flying boats shared the grass with classics comparable to V-tail Beech Bonanzas, Douglas DC-3s and Beech 18s whereas line-ups of radial-engined Cessna 195s stretched into the gap.


A spotlight for a lot of was this uncommon formation of Grumman Wildcat, Hellcat, Bearcat and Tigercat. (Stephen Bridgewater/RAeS)

Many guests attend Oshkosh primarily for the warbirds and this yr there have been 369 registered. Starting from liaison varieties (L-Birds) such because the Grasshopper and Chicken Canine through piston- and jet-powered fighters to transports and bombers there was one thing for everybody. As is conventional, lots of the coaching varieties arrived en masse throughout Monday’s flying show with dozens of T-6 Texans, T-28 Trojans, T-34 Mentors becoming a member of forces with Yak-52s and Nanchang CJ-6s (the so-called Pink Stars) to criss-cross the airfield in giant formations.

Fighters in attendance this yr included 5 Vought Corsairs, greater than 20 P-51 Mustangs, three Douglas Skyraiders and 4 P-40 Warhawks together with rarities comparable to a P-39 Airacobra, P-63 Kingcobra, Westland Lysander, Yak-9, de Havilland Mosquito, Boeing B-29, A-26 Invader. Yak-9 and Hispano Buchon – the latter modified with an Allison V-12 engine.

Awards winners

This award successful Choctaw nonetheless carried battle injury from the Vietnam conflict and was flown in by members of her authentic crew. (Stephen Bridgewater/RAeS)

Nevertheless, the undoubted star of the present was Dr Bruce Winters’ newly restored Messerschmitt Bf109G-6, which was recovered from a lake within the former USSR and subjected to an in-depth restoration that resulted in it successful the coveted Grand Champion WWII award. It additionally received a Phoenix Award, as did the Lysander that Dave Hadfield flew all the best way from Ontario. Reserve Grand Champion was a phenomenal C-47 Skytrain primarily based within the USA however owned by Hugh Mathys from Switzerland. Finest Jet was awarded to Doug Matthews’ new F-86E Sabre, the Allison-powered Buchon (the so-called AlliSchmitt) received Finest Overseas Fighter and the Finest Helicopter award went to a uncommon Sikorsky H-34 Choctaw that also carried battle injury repairs from its time in Vietnam and was flown into the occasion by members of her authentic wartime crew.

Navy would possibly

A US Navy E/A-18 Growler flies previous throughout one of many twilight exhibits, sucking moisture from the air as its burners gentle up the sky. (Stephen Bridgewater/RAeS)

The present US navy invariable helps AirVenture in type and this yr the US Military, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Pressure had been all out in drive.

Flying show appearances had been made by the USAF’s F-35A Lightning II (flown by Captain Kristin ‘Beo’ Wolfe), C-17 Globemaster III, A-10A Thunderbolt II and Lockheed U-2, whereas the USMC offered an Osprey and the Navy flew the F-35C Lightning II, a pair of E/A-18 Growlers and a two-ship of E-2C Hawkeyes.

In the meantime, the static shows included a CH-47 Chinook, AH-64E Apache, UH-60 Blackhawk and UH-72 Lakota from the US Military and swathes of USAF ‘belongings’ together with KC-135, C-5 Galaxy, F-15 Eagle and a number of T-38 Talons and T-6 Texan II trainers. 

Though maybe confused by many as ‘navy’ displays, the Northrop CF-5D and Mikoyan MiG-29UB Fulcrum that appeared on the present had been really privately-owned! Whereas the CF-5 was on the market the MiG was proudly owned (and flown) by Draken Worldwide founder Jarad Isaacman and varieties a part of his Polaris Daybreak organisation. Isaacman additionally introduced a pair of Dassault Alpha Jets and three L-39 Albatros trainers to the present alongside the Fulcrum.

See you in 2023?

Entry to plane is unrivalled with fences, ropes or obstacles a rarity. (Stephen Bridgewater/RAeS)

When you’ve ever been tempted by a go to to Oshkosh please don’t be intimidated by the dimensions of the occasion or the journey logistics. The airfield is round two hours north of Chicago and the world is awash with lodging choices. From tenting on web site or staying within the close by college halls of residence to extra luxurious resort choices within the native city and surrounding cities there’s loads of selection, though reserving early is at all times advisable.

AirVenture is what you make of it. You’ll by no means see each plane, attend each seminar, go to each workshop, watch each movie or lecture or meet up with everyone you wish to see, however in the event you tempo your self, use the free onsite tram community and plan forward you may have as stress-free or hectic every week as you need. However be warned… after getting been as soon as, AirVenture has a behavior of entering into your blood and might turn into an dependancy!

Subsequent yr might be 20 years since my first go to to the world’s biggest aviation celebration and I’ve so many recollections of plane that I’ve seen, talks I’ve attended, bands I’ve seen and friendships I’ve made on this far-flung airfield Wisconsin. I’ll be again to have fun that twentieth anniversary subsequent yr; it actually has turn into a pilgrimage.

Boeing Plaza is the center of AirVenture however represents only a small proportion of the plane on web site. (Connor Maddison/EAA) 

Stephen Bridgewater

19 August 2022


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