Once again more than one-half million people came to AirVenture Oshkosh. That is a staggering number when you consider there are only around 200,000 general aviation airplanes in the U.S. And fewer than 600,000 active pilots.
As usual, more than 10,000 airplanes came and went at Oshkosh and the nearby airports in Fond du Lac and Appleton.
Wednesday is the traditional “turnover” day during AirVenture. Most people can’t spend the entire week at the show so the biggest group comes for the first few days, and a slightly smaller second wave arrives for the second half.
On Wednesday this year the tower recorded more than 2,000 landings and takeoffs at Wittman Field. The count was slightly ahead of the previous record, which also occurred on a Wednesday during the show.
Moving 2,000 airplanes on a single airport in one day still astonishes me. And in this case a “day” is short. No movements are allowed before 6 in the morning or after 8 in the evening. And the air show “waiver” period closes the airport for departures and arrivals for nearly 4 hours.
During AirVenture Oshkosh becomes a unique controlled airport. Under the special procedures for the show everything on the airport except for the runways themselves are “non-movement” areas. That means FAA controllers only direct traffic on the runways. Once any aircraft leaves the runway it is under the direction of EAA staff and volunteers.
EAA staff and volunteers guide every aircraft as it taxies to parking, and then as it leaves parking to taxi back to the runway. FAA controllers take over at the runway edge for departures and use paddle hand signals and transmitted radio clearances to send pilots on their way.
There is no single activity or type of aviation interest that brings half a million people to Oshkosh. It is actually the enormous range of types of aircraft and flying that make AirVenture the world’s greatest aviation event.
Homebuilts, antiques and warbirds are all among the attractions during AirVenture but they account for fewer than 2,000 total airplanes at the show. That means that more than 8,000 pilots fly all sorts of airplanes to Oshkosh for an unlimited number of reasons.
Many in aviation want to pigeon hole AirVenture and EAA into a single category of aviation interests such as amateur-built experimental airplanes, or antiques or warbirds. But that’s not accurate. In fact the opposite is true. EAA does represent those types of airplanes, but also attracts every other type, too. EAA is not the narrowest aviation interest group, it is the broadest and most inclusive aviation club on the planet.
Don’t believe me? Half a million people do, and that many can’t be wrong.