July 30, 2006

EAA Airventure 2006 in Oshkosh, WI

oshkosh_control_tower.jpgThis weekend my wife and I drove up to Oshkosh, WI for the EAA Airventure 2006. Every year since 1970, Wittman Regional Airport serves as the location of one of the aviation world's premier events. It has been estimated that three quarters of a million people attend the show and over 10,000 aircraft fly in for this week-long event. During the week the control tower prides itself as being the busiest in the world.

We set-up a tent in Camp Scholler which is on the EAA grounds and open to EAA members. It was a very hot weekend and when we arrived at 10pm to set-up camp the temperatures were still easily in the 80s.

We got up early and headed over to the EAA Museum to hear Dick Rutan talk about being the first person to fly around the world non-stop. As my readers know, I am amazed by people who have pushed the envelope of flying; like Jerrie Mock's circumnavigation of the world in 1964 or Steve Fossett's trip around the globe this past year which was the first in a jet.

It was nearly twenty years ago that Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager flew around the world without stopping or refueling in their Voyager Aircraft. Dick talked about the five years it took to take the idea and develop an aircraft that could accomplish this amazing flight. The aircraft was designed by his brother Burt Rutan; who recently designed SpaceShipOne the first civilian spacecraft to travel to space and return safely. It took them five years of hard work, dedication and some luck to build and test an aircraft that would be able to make such a flight. Dick spoke of the many close calls they had during the 9 day, 3 minute, and 44 second flight.

dick_rutan.jpgDick explained the importance of events like AirVenture to inspire people to push the limits of our world. He mentioned that before Chuck Yeager flew "Bell X-1" through the sound barrier, it was questioned whether man could build a flying machine that could travel as fast as the speed of sound. It took a man with courage and a pioneer attitude to prove it could be done.

Dick and his brother were inspired by aviation at a young age and worked with a single focus to prove that an plane could be designed and built that could allow someone to fly around the world non-stop. Since then his brother Dick helped design SpaceShipOne, the first civilian spacecraft to travel to space and return safely. Dick hopes he can inspire the youth of America to become the pioneers of the future and that they may develop the ability to travel faster than the speed of light.

At Airventure there were over 5,000 forums and discussions throughout the week. This was the only one that my wife and I attended but it had to have been one of the best of the show. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet Dick after his very entertaining and enlightening talk.

After leaving the museum we headed to the farthest end of the show where the ultra-light airstrip is located. There we enjoyed watching six or seven ultra-lights flying in the pattern. Some looked like Go-Carts with a propeller dangling from a hang-glider. But they flew so gracefully that I decided at some point I will have to give this type of flying a try.

oshkosh_airshow.jpgFrom there we walked along the flight line looking at many of the nearly 10,000 aircraft that flew in for the event. It is just an amazing sight to see the thousands of planes lined up in rows off the main runway. We enjoyed seeing a ton of neat experimental aircraft along with traditional aircraft like the Cessna 172. At the far end of the main runway was an area where all the warbirds were parked. We spent nearly an hour walking through the amazing collection of planes from World War I era to present. I noticed one of the t-34 trainers of the Lima Lima Flight Team with whom I enjoyed a flight with last summer.

After seeing almost all of the planes on display we checked out the exhibit areas. I checked in with the FAA and AOPA and provided them some updated contact information which saved me a few phone calls. I also had the opportunity to check out Microsoft's new Flight Simulator X which comes out this fall. While walking through the exhibit area we saw Chuck Yeager standing next to his P-51 Mustang, Glamorous Glen III.

At 3:30 the airshow kicked off with a ton of great acts. I especially enjoyed watching all the warbirds flying. The World War II bombers never look like they will be able to lift off the runway. It is always a treat to see those historic planes take to the sky. I especially enjoyed Mike Goulian's acrobatic performance in the Castrol Extra.

If you are an aviation enthusiast and have never been to AirVenture you are missing out. Check it out next year July 23 - July 29, 2007. Until then you can check out some of my photos on Flickr.

Posted by at July 30, 2006 6:56 PM