Half a Million at Oshkosh Can’t Be Wrong

North 40 photo by Jim Koepnick

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.

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61 Responses to Half a Million at Oshkosh Can’t Be Wrong

  1. Chris Lindauer says:

    Yes, but I wonder if that’s what EAA members wanted when they originally joined??

  2. Bill Berson says:

    Yes, I believe you. Anyone can see that the trend at EAA has been and continues to move toward “all aviation”.

    And it seems to me that Sport Aviation magazine is no longer limited to sport and now includes traditional General aviation.
    Maybe the magazine should be called All Aviation instead. This might be just what the half million want.
    Since homebuilders and restorers only account for a small percentage, as mentioned, I suppose these sport pilots will have little to say about there special interests.

    • John Donnee says:

      I totally disagree with this comment. Sport Aviation is such a good magazine that I did not renew Flying or Plane and Pilot

      • Rodney Hall says:

        I think that IS the point. You should not be able to substitute Sport Aviation for Flying or Plane and Pilot. Those magazines should be about normal certificated aircraft while Sport Aviation should be about aircraft certificated in the experimental category, including antiques, and how to built, certificate and maintain them.

  3. Chris Smith says:

    “EAA is not the narrowest aviation interest group, it is the broadest and most inclusive aviation club on the planet.” I don’t debate that point.

    However, “EAA was founded in 1953 by a group of individuals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who were interested in building their own airplanes.” but now the association is no longer primarily focused on home-built aircraft and experimental aviation.

    I believe the name Experimental Aircraft Association is no longer appropriate. I submit the name should be changed to GAA, for General Aircraft Association, or General Aviation Association, which would seem to better define the current membership Management focus.

    Continuing to be known as the Experimental Aircraft Association is disingenuous at best…


    Chris Smith

  4. David Calland says:

    I started attending Oshkosh years ago not knowing anything about experimental aircraft. I was drawn by planes of every type and the air show the first time I attended. I really did not have a great interest in experimental aircraft at the time. I disagree with some that the scope is too broad now. My first exposure to experimental aircraft was from attending Oshkosh and over the years of exposure I eventually developed an interest and built a plane and just flew it to OSH for the 4th time this year and spent the entire week camping next to it. I think it is good to have multiple facets of aviation to draw interest. Who knows……….maybe someone else like me will learn about homebuilts and take the plunge also!

  5. Jeff Point says:

    EAA has clearly lost it’s focus, and is in real danger of losing it’s soul. If you agree, and you want to do something about it, there is a way. https://www.facebook.com/groups/members4members/ Members4members is a new but growing group of dissatisfied EAA members who want to save the organization from it’s current course, which is straight into the heart of the storm. Check out our page to learn more about how you can help (and no, it doesn’t cost anything.)

  6. Josh Johnson says:

    I actually very much like the changes EAA has made to the magazine and such. I think the management has figured out that we need all of us for General and Sport aviation to survive! Missed OSH this year, but I (and my wife especially) appreciated the new showers and flush toilets!
    Oh, and I fly and work on both certified and experimentals and enjoy both categories of aircraft!

  7. Bob Orre says:

    I guess there will always be critics, and we need them. However, I for one applaud the changes. Where in the world can you find so many things related to aviation in one venue? No where! For the grass roots folks, I hear ya, but I’m not aligned. I love airplanes. I’ve built two aircraft. If it weren’t for EAA and Airventure, I’d have had to find some other way to learn about all the things I could possibly do with my aircraft, or find some other venue to see so many examples of the model I was building. I can attend a welding course, sit through a sheet metal forming demonstration, a fabric covering demonstration, learn about a particular aircraft engine and it’s maintenance procedures, snap 100′s of photo’s of builder examples, talk to the kit manufacturer, sit and watch aircraft operations, learn about new avionics changes, etc. all in one place! LOVE IT! In order to make a difference, an organization needs to have a critical mass. I’d say 500000 people is critical mass. Keep up the great work EAA.

  8. SkyGuy says:

    - The attendace numbers are flawed.
    - I attended 5 days and was counted 5 times….only one person though.

  9. Pingback: Half a Million at Oshkosh Can't Be Wrong | Left Seat | Share My Aircraft News

  10. Dan Horton says:

    Mac, you have no shame. It’s your blog. You can be as self-serving as you wish, but please, let’s not confuse the issues. Visitors came Oshkosh to see the experimentals, the warbirds, the antiques, the light stuff, the wild stuff, the unusual, and the new. Some came to see electronics. Many just came to see friends. Very few came to see another Baron, 172, or Cherokee. For sure nobody walked in the front gate and headed to the North 40 to see the airplanes parked there.

    Please retire as soon as possible.

    • John Williams says:

      Speaking for myself, I do head to the north 40 and walk among the Baron’s, 172′s, and Cherokee’s. I walk all the way around the west end and then to the terminal. Been doing so since 1986. Call me weird, but it is my barometer of the state of GA. P.S. I do the same at Fon du Lac, too!

    • chris doyle says:

      I did.

      Been attending every year since 1998.

      I always walk around and look at all the planes (North 40 and over by the Hilton as well).

      I love aircraft!

  11. Mac says:

    Hi Dan,
    Ah, retirement. Sounds good about now and I appreciate all of your best wishes for my future. However, I didn’t say people come to Oshkosh AirVenture to look at airplanes in the North 40. They come–according to all of our surveys–first and foremost to see what’s new among exhibitors. As you know, manufacturers of all sorts are here so the exhibit may be a multi-million dollar jet, or a company that makes accessories for hang gliders. It is that vast range of aviation interest that keeps people coming, not some narrow focus on whatever.
    Oshkosh has grown into our national air show much as the Paris Air Salon (Salon du Borget)–the oldest air show in the world– is to France and Farnborough to the U.K. I think that is fantastic. The fact that any single segment is a smaller percentage of the total is a mark of enormous success, not a shift in focus or interest. Not sure why you are apparently unhappy with the half million people who show up. Sounds like success to me and I love it. Maybe I’ll keep at it to see at least one more and save retirement for another day.
    Mac Mc

    • Skyfixer says:

      Why is it I have never seen anything here about the Make A Wish kids and their special day on the last Saturday of the convention ? Having been involved with them now for 4 years escorting them on the tram to their different tours and flights, I feel it is time their story be told.

    • Phil Perry says:


      You’re still going to stand by 500,000 people chose to attend AirVenture? Even after it’s been proven that 500,000 people didn’t attend?

      My wife and I counted as 10 people, Mac. Are we 2 or are we 10?

      It’s one thing to be the new guy and unknowingly make an honest mistake because you didn’t understand the numbers. But once the truth has been disclosed and you continue to spew the false information, you’ve crossed the line from misinformed to lying.

      Are you still going to stand by 500,000 people chose to attend? Or are you going to report factual information and say the 160,000 people chose to attend and between them they purchased 500,000 day passes.

      I hope you choose the latter because I don’t want to have to call you a liar.

      • Mac says:

        Hi Phil. It’s the liar here.
        Let me tell you a story. I have attended and worked at every Oshkosh show since 1976. In the late 70s and early 80s Flying magazine published the first daily newspaper at Oshkosh. Stancie was publisher and I was on the edit staff. We weren’t married then. In fact we both pretty much thought the other was a jerk. Turns out to be a great foundation for marriage.
        In those pre-computer days it was impossible to track attendance at Oshkosh, but everyone wanted a number.
        One day during the show George Larson, another Flying writer, and I decided that we qualified as “veteran observers” and we would make a crowd estimate and print it. After all that’s how the police in New York City, for example, come up with how many people are at Times Square on New Years, or how many are at some kind of protest.
        I don’t recall our estimate but it was not disputed by anyone, and was widely reported in the media. It was as good an estimate as existed. George and I kept making the estimates for several years until useful wrist band tracking systems became available. For the past several years the wrist band count is reasonably accurate. Any errors remain relative so year to year comparisons are valid.
        How many unique individuals attend can only be a guess. But if the Yankees report that 600,000 people attended their last 10 home games do you call them liars because some fans were at all 10 games?
        There are lies, damn lies and statistics. I guess estimates are even more damnable to you than statistics.
        However, one thing puzzles me. Why do you as a dedicated EAAer want so desperately to shrink our wonderful event? Shouldn’t we all worry about shrinkage?
        Your friendly liar, Mac Mc

  12. Kent Misegades says:

    Be careful with such numbers. EAA officials continue to claim that there are around 1,000 chapters worldwide when in reality there are only around 250 really active chapters. Half of them in my state of NC are little more than an old boys club or exist only on paper. The EAA has serious problems, evidence the recent purging of numerous respected managers and a never-seen-before large crowd at the annual meeting. Mac’s comments also make no mention of the thousands of unpaid volunteers who really make Oshkosh happen. When they stay home, AirVenture dies.

  13. Derek Kuhl says:

    I spent my first time there learning at the workshops and forums. My reason for coming was to learn how to repair a plane myself once I buy/build it. The welding, wood, and composites pavilions were totally full when I was there. My feeling is that while many there were home builders, others were looking for a way to fix their plane without gasping at the cost of hiring someone else to do the same work. Owning a plane can be incredibly expensive if you let everyone do the work for you, but learning to do it yourself can give you confidence in whether it was done right even if you have to hire someone else.

    I do feel like the EAA could do more to provide to home builders. The EAA forums are a mile wide and an inch deep. For more depth, I go to the Homebuilt Airplanes forums. Most importantly, there is no real leader from EAA specifically for homebuilders. Much like the Young Eagles has a chairman, I would love to see the EAA have a Homebuilders Chairman.

  14. Phil Perry says:


    You are entirely too easy to debate.

    As a dedicated EAAer, I believe in honesty, integrity, character, and the truth. You have been around long enough to probably remember those are characteristics existed early at the core of the EAA. Those are characteristics I still believe in and it appears that you don’t.

    I wish the event had 500,000 of the 600,000 active pilots in attendance. How great would that be if it were true? Maybe we will get there someday, but my guess is that we will soon be talking about 500,000 people attending from a pilot pool of 400,000. I really look forward to seeing how you twist the fact there too.

    Have a nice weekend,

    • Derek Kuhl says:

      I saw a ton of brazilians, germans, canadians and other nationalities there. I feel like GA is growing in places like the Czech Republic and Germany, despite their taxation plan this year.

  15. Harold Bickford says:

    EAA has grown over time to encompass the many facets of aviation. My wife and I especially liked the forums, vintage, ultralight and homebuilt (ok, amateur built or E-AB)areas. When it was really hot the museum was most welcome.

    However measured attendance is significant and you can always meet new people who share aviation interests from around the world.

    For those able to satisfy flying goals by spending money, go for it safely. For those less able be innovative and seek out those who can best help with kits, parts and sound advice. Then by all means take the initiative to build something and find a chapter or group for help and support. If there really seems to be none why not start one?

  16. Rodney Hall says:

    Maybe instead of saying 500,000 PEOPLE attended you could say there were 500,000 visits, or visitors, or visitor days. Saying there were 500,000 people makes it sound like you are counting each person once as an individual instead of just the sum of the gate receipts over the days.

  17. Danny Bullard says:

    Wow, shame on all of you “dedicated EAA members” who are taking Mac to task for trying to write something upbeat about Airventure. Are you really that bitter about the success you’ve built? I would be elated that all of your hard work in promoting amateur built aircraft has resulted in an annual event I like to refer to as the “Woodstock of Aviation.” There is not a single event that I know of that is more wholesome and uplifting than Airventure. Where else can you go for a full week and experience aviation at its very best? The volunteers, exhibitors, and the attendees get together for a week of celebrating aviation with no rude behavior or trash – just good, clean fun (have you been to an NFL game lately? I cna’t take my family to one – awful behavior). My hat is off to all the “dedicated EAA members” who put together one of America’s best events on an annual basis. And, keep up the good work Mac.

  18. Bob Orre says:

    It’s ok, Danny. They are entitled to there opinion. It is a free country. I am confused though what their “real” issue is though. So the attendance number is off 100000. Who cares?

    I sat through the night airshow. What an event. It was as packed as any daytime air show I’ve seen. Like Mac says, So many people can’t be wrong.

    What I would like to see is some constructive feedback from the folks who feel Airventure doesn’t represent their interests. What do they want to see that doesn’t already happen at Airventure? That would be more helpful. Then EAA could actually do something about it.

    Cheers, Bob

    • Dan Horton says:

      The real issue? EAA appears to be devolving into the sort of corporate culture most Americans despise; lying and/or omission is accepted behavior if it is seen internally as good for the company. It’s called “spin” or “public affairs” so the honest employees can sleep at night.

      Examine the very first sentence of this blog: “Once again more than one-half million people came to AirVenture Oshkosh.” It is simply not true….yet the primary argument in its defense seems to be “Everybody else does it that way”.

      Consider the election of directors. Beginning in 2010, Sport Aviation did not report the number of votes cast by proxy and in person at the 2010 and 2011 Saturday end-of-Convention board meetings. Instead you were referred to the EAA website for the tally. The website minutes for 2010 do not include voting or proxy numbers. Searches for the 2011 minutes net a “Page not available” message.

      The proxy numbers reported for previous years were:
      2006 – 26,823
      2007 – 23,835
      2008 – 20,525
      2009 – 14,376
      2010 – none reported
      2011 – none reported

      The fellow responsible for EAA publications content is right here at the top of the page. Why no 2010 or 2011 voting numbers Mac? When will we see them? And can we expect to see the most recent proxy and vote tallies in our October 2012 Sport Aviation…..as we did for more than 40 years?

      BTW, if verbal reports are accurate, the proxy count held and voted by EAA management at the recent 2012 meeting was over 26,000……after years of declines in proxy voting (see above). Sure, the huge leap in proxies could be seen as a resounding show of confidence in new EAA management, except for one little question. Given no reports in 2010 or 2011, and an obvious tendency to be loose with numbers, how can we be sure 26,000 is accurate?

      It is an honest question. A lack of communication often leads to a lack of trust. Perhaps “Exactly How We Generate The Numbers” and “How Your Association Conducts Its Annual Meeting” would be good articles for a future Sport Aviation issue.

      • Mac says:

        You’re right, Dan. EAA hasn’t done all that it could be publish details of operations. For example, I bet you don’t know that the dues members pay account for less than 20 percent of EAA’s total income. That means all the other money that is spent on EAA programs comes from AirVenture, advertisers, sponsors and supporters. Nobody wants a dues increase, but you can see how important AirVenture, exhibitors and advertisers are to keeping the association in business. EAA would be a very small associaiton without that income.
        Rod Hightower is determined to make all EAA operations more transparent and we will be publishing a report soon. How can you be sure the numbers are accurate? EAA is audited by an independent firm each year.
        Mac Mc

        • Dan Horton says:

          Nice try Mac. You side-stepped the questions.

          Will you print the proxy and voting details from the 2010 and 2011 board elections? Will complete proxy and voting information from the recent 2012 meeting be published in an upcoming Sport Aviation, traditionally the October issue?

          As to third party audit, I have the 2012 Grant Thornton LLC report here on my desk. Airventure is roughly 55% of EAA income, dues and subscriptions about 16%. Finances are for another day. Right now, do you mean to say Grant Thornton also audits proxy votes? If not, who does?

          • Bob Orre says:

            That’s the “real” reason? EAA has grown into a large corporation and they are beauracratic like other large corporations and maybe they’ve grown too big too fast? And they didn’t publish the proxy votes that past two years? And the attendance numbers maybe off?

            Wow… Guess I never considered all of that. Probably cuz it doesn’t really matter to me, and it still doesn’t. But hey, you go, Dan. I guess it has to matter to someone, and it is a free country.

            Mac, please let someone know how much I appreciate the night air show, the F18 demonstration flight, the air academy that my son attended, the technical counselor program that helped me build my aircraft, the helicopter ride that my other son got to experience, the young eagles flights that my son and daughter got to partake in last year at Airventure, the fabulous museum, the work they’ve been able to accomplish with congress to pass the pilot bill of rights, The craft tent my wife and daughter visit each year while I’m watching aircraft or attending a forum, etc., etc. I could go on, but you get the point.

            Keep up the great work!

  19. Dan Horton says:

    Yes Bob, EAA does matter to me. A widespread and sincere interest in Association governance, finance, and soul ensures the features members enjoy. Not all will take an interest in critical details, but please accept that some must, and do so with member interest at heart.

    Mac, will you take the questions?

    • damian says:

      Hey Dan you seam very up set about these numbers and just the direction eaa is headed am I not right? Please get off theses guys i would love to see you try to do what they do and are doing. I would love to see you work there or run it how you want it run except you would ruin eaa. Who cares about the numbers or any of that lets just be glad that the show was a sucess none of them had to get cancled there wernt any major acidents that I heard of and I havent hear 1 negative thing about it.

    • kilo papa says:

      If there is a physician reading this blog post, please prescribe Dan Horton a tranquilizer. Immediately.

  20. Thomas Boyle says:

    I really appreciate EAA’s broader reach. And I am very, very proud to be a teeny tiny dues-paying part of the organization that organizes Airventure.

    Think about it: when you go to the Farnborough or Paris Air Shows, it’s wall-to-wall weaponry and a few airliners. Even the little airplanes are covered in sensors for military use.

    Airventure is as big in attendance terms as either of those air shows – count them however you will (their numbers are every bit as slippery). Airventure is an unabashed celebration of the joy of personal aviation and comradeship and shared passion in a huge, peaceful, voluntary association of like-minded individuals, all of whom wish each other well and celebrate each other’s achievements. Sure, there are some military aircraft in attendance, but they’re courtesy visitors, not the main event. And, there’s nothing surprising, at Oshkosh, about seeing a business jet owner honestly admiring an aircraft at the ultralight field – or vice versa.

    There simply aren’t many bigger celebrations of joy out there.

    Long may it prosper.

  21. Don Mack says:

    “Oshkosh” is the Superbowl of aviation. At the Superbowl there are only two teams represented. I could complain because the Bears are not there. Or I could enjoy and watch the game. The fact that the Superbowl draws such a worldwide diverse audience is what makes it such a success.

    If I don’t want to look at the 172′s, war birds, antiques, exhibitors etc. I don’t. Like the Superbowl, I skip the countless hours before the game. That’s the beauty of it all, there is something for everyone.

    For the 500,000 that’s not individual people. I would recommend reporting it as tickets (wristbands) sold like most other large events are. Any way you slice it, it’s still one heck of a large number.

  22. Jeff Point says:

    However, one thing puzzles me. Why do you as a dedicated EAAer want so desperately to shrink our wonderful event? Shouldn’t we all worry about shrinkage?


    Your comments here are just a variation on Tom P’s oft-repeated strawman argument. When Tom said it, it went something like this- “some say that EAA has gotten too big. I say to them, who should we tell not to come?”

    Allow me to answer you as I answered him- I’d start by uninviting those who come to the event, spend a little money, but who clearly don’t share our values, our priorities and who don’t care if they are doing damage to the greater good, as long as they are having a good time. I’d start with the small handful of companies who drop some money advertising their businesses, which have a direct negative impact on experimental aviation. I’ll refrain from naming them here, but we all know who they are, the companies whose blatant disregard for both the letter and spirit of the law places in jeopardy our ability to build and fly E-AB aircraft.

    In the next phase, I’d un-invite anyone who thinks that bringing an especially neat old airplane entitles them to rope off large sections of the flightline for their corporate chalets. This event has survived just fine over the years by folks who brought cool airplanes and demanded only that amount of real estate required to park the airplanes.

    After we got rid of those two groups, I think you’d find that the event had actually experienced very little shrinkage, but had regained quite a bit of it’s soul. It’s a tradeoff I’m willing to make.


    Jeff Point

  23. Shannon says:

    I’ve been a member since 02, I’ve noticed the changes and think some of the homebuilders have a point. However, I don’t have a problem with expanding our reach to other parts of GA. I’ve attended Oshkosh 4 times and will attend again, the workshops are fantatic, it’s avaition overload. I’ve also run a County Fair in a large metro area and I will tell everyone, getting accurate attendance numbers is HARD. I no longer take anyones numbers at face values there is always going to be a qualifer in my mind. There is a large social aspect to avaition that many people enjoy, I like it however its not my primary interest.

    Yes, EAA is changing and evolving the experimental homebuilt potion seems to be de-emphasized, however it is still there. I just hope that the new mangement will be sucessful in striking a balance between the old and the new. I support the dialog and putting forth all of our best efforts to acheive that balance.

    Wishing the best to all,

  24. Bruce Pease says:

    I have attended about 15 AirVentures, including last year, but not this year. I am always amazed at the huge success that it is. I am also reminded of the massive efforts by EAA staff and volunteers. I have been a member of EAA for 40 years and have seen it change from a day of all homebuilts flying around like buzzing bees to a “Paris Air Show”. I joined with an interest in design and homebuilding and have had the typical anxiety as EAA has evolved over the years. Some of us may feel left behind, but I now believe EAA has a greater more important task in aviation. I enjoy the wide scope of Oshkosh. I think within that scope each of us can focus in on what interests us and celebrate with others what most interests them.

    I do think homebuilders should be separated out into their own division. This will permit them to have a more fulfilling identity and permit them to nuture themselves better.

    It may be ok for EAA to rename themselves to a more comprehensive title, but at the same time EAA is such a strong brand it might be a mistake. Maybe adjust the mission statement to some sort of “if it flies we support it”. We all would be in a sorry state if EAA did not go to bat for us with the FAA.

    AirVenture should not have to feel the pressure to every year be bigger and better than ever before. Just present a quality aviation get away. As other regional EAA “airventures”, such as Sun and Fun, continue to grow it is inevitable that attendance at Oshkosh will taper off. Watch the finances, future plans; don’t go overboard on facility improvements, and take very good care of the volunteers. I have always regarded AirVenture activities as not just high class, but the highest class. I hope EAA wisely considers quality and not necessarily quantity in future AirVentures.

  25. Mike says:

    To quote from the movie “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou”…. “it’s a problem of perception…”.
    Right now, as I see it, the publics perception is that the EAA is headed in the wrong direction, it lays off harding working employees that loved their jobs, it pressures those left to quit their jobs if they don’t like it, it lies to it’s members, it doesn’t care about experimental aircraft and homebuilding any more, and much more. It doesn’t matter what excuses or chest-padding exclamations the EAA puts out. The fact is NO ONE believes what the management of the EAA says about what has been going on. Therefore it doesn’t matter what the EAA says, perception is the winner.

  26. Franklin R. says:

    I support those who are holding Mac to account for using exaggerated language. Clearly the 500K number represents “visitor days purchased” and the number of unique individuals that attends is a much smaller number, probably in the 150K range. A high-confidence estimate could easily be established by surveying a representative sample of visitors.

    Mac’s question / accusation “Why do you as a dedicated EAAer want so desperately to shrink our wonderful event?” struck me as a bizarre outburst and made me wonder whether he even understands what is being discussed here.

  27. Jim C. Owen says:

    “For example, I bet you don’t know that the dues members pay account for less than 20 percent of EAA’s total income. That means all the other money that is spent on EAA programs comes from AirVenture, advertisers, sponsors and supporters. Nobody wants a dues increase, but you can see how important AirVenture, exhibitors and advertisers are to keeping the association in business. EAA would be a very small associaiton without that income.”

    These words from Mac are almost word-for-word what Heidi Strand wrote on the Members4Members Facebook page, so we can be quite sure this is the official position of EAA management.

    And, as with the statements about AirVenture attendance, these words are at best misleading, at worst they are lies.

    Yes member dues account for less than 20% of EAA’s income. But “all the other money” comes from a MUCH broader revenue base than what is described. For a start there are several million dollars of program revenues from the B-17 & Ford TriMotor tours, from the Museum and Pioneer Airport, from SportAir Workshops, from the autofuel STC, and from the Air Academy. There are substantial royalties from the member insurance program. There are significant fees levied on EAA Chapters and EAA Divisions. There is a multimillion dollar year-round merchandising operation with a catalogue, website and museum gift shop. There is a lucrative facility rental business using the museum and AirVenture grounds. There is the 5% interest taken annually from a $20 million endowment.

    The unspun truth is that the vast majority of EAA’s revenue derives from its members. Some of it through dues, some of it through fees to attend programs, AirVenture and the like. Some of it through donations. And some of it through advertising, sponsorship and exhibitors. But do you really think these companies would spend heavily with EAA if there wasn’t a large membership base they could market their wares to?

  28. Dan Horton says:

    Airventure is good. We all agree.

    Inflating, hiding, spinning, or lying about any management number is bad. How can anyone disagree?

    Mac, you are EAA’s Vice President of Publications.

    Will you print the omitted proxy and voting details from the 2010 and 2011 board elections?

    Will complete proxy and voting information from the recent 2012 meeting be published in an upcoming Sport Aviation, traditionally the October issue?

    Do you mean to say the Grant Thornton accounting firm audits proxy votes? If not, who does?

  29. John Morgan says:

    It might be better to move away from the issue of how many people actually attended Oshkosh. It might be better to consider what kind of people attended Oshkosh. I was there from beginning to end and enjoyed every second talking with people from everywhere about everything related to aviation. I also might mention that I did not hear the F bomb dropped once in 7 days. Try doing that at a Braves game or anywhere a large group of people are massed to take in whatever the attraction may be. Maybe at a Billy Graham crusade but nowhere else than I can think of.

    Also instead of worring about whom EAA is catering to, you might consider that we desperately need any and all of us if GA is to survive. What are you doing to bring new people to our avocation? Young Eagles ? Old eagles? Pilots n Paws? Mercy Flights?

    Or do you do nothing and just whine about EAA not being like the good old days. I got news for you; the good old days are over and society is headed ever more in a direction that takes them away from our core interests regardless of which aviation group we fall into. So instead of whining; how about we all go out there and recruit new members to join EAA and our love for aviation.

    If we don’t then whatever you fly will be worthless in about 15 years! Think about that and see if you can’t become part of the solution instead of a whiny bystander!

    John Morgan

  30. Jim Pearce says:

    Say what you will about EAA loosing its focus, attendance counts being off, or lack of operational transparency, I will say that Airventure this year had a completely different feel to this North 40 camper.

    I saw Rod Hightower standing by the grass taxiway as I arrived on the Saturday before the opening.

    I saw John Carrier, EAA VP of IT picking up pedestrians and delivering ice.

    I had a van driver (not one of the school buses) pick me up as I walked near the Friar Tuck’s gate and give me a ride all the way to the tower. He said that all drivers with show access were instructed to offer rides whenever they could.

    These are little things but they show me that the EAA management recognizes that the visitors to OSH are their customers and members and should be treated as such.

  31. Vaughan says:

    You know ~ “The Spirit of Aviation” encompasses it all. I joined EAA 12 years ago when I became a partner in a Warrior. Was just learning baout Homebuilt and Kit aircraft and was just learning about Aviation in general (I got my license late in life). I’ve since built an aircraft, still have an interest in the Warrior, and I for one, totally feel that EAA is on the right track. There is something for everyone and the biggest thing, as mentioned before, is that if we don’t attract “new blood” to Aviation, it will disappear.

  32. rdt7 says:

    I attended my first Oshkosh in 1978. I’ve seen many changes since then. First, that upstart Burt Rutan started all this composite non-sense. Then came the kit-builders. Real men build airplanes from scratch. Come on, EAA was founded on tube and rag aircraft. Now you’ve got all these cookie-cutter RV’s. We need to turn the clock back to 1953!

    Seriously, you nay-sayers need to understand how the world has changed. AirVenture in 2012 many times better than the first one I attended in 1978. (Started my Steen Skybolt that year.) The bottom line is as aviation shrinks, we need a bigger tent to accommodate all forms of aviation. Plus, I think most pilots share my enthusiasm for anything that flies from homebuilts, to military to airliners. Like the rest of the half million who attended AirVenture I want to go somewhere where I can see it all.

    And by the way, I think there is validity in counting “person days”. Instead of counting my visit as 1 visit, it should be counted as 5. I loved AirVenture enough to spend 5 full days there. If I loved it less, I might spend only 1 day there. Next year I’m going to stay longer and, in a few years, I’m going to start volunteering to “pay my dues” for all the joy EAA has brought into my life over the years. EAA is better than ever – primarily because it is willing to change with the times.

  33. Bill Strawn says:

    Wow! Such a display of outrage over whether AirVenture had 500k “visitors” or “attendees”. Some of my fellow aviators sound like disgruntled losers in an election. I made my first AirVenture in the 16 years I have been a member (from South Texas is an awful long ride regardless of the ride being a 182 or a Mazda 6), and I was overwhelmed. Over the week my wife and I spent 9 hours simply joyfully watching the planes arrive on Sunday, meeting every maker of ANR headsets to pick out the one that best fit our needs, attending workshops, drooling over homebuilts and warbirds, meeting the test pilots of the Phenom 100 (unfortunately well out of my price range but the only light jet cockpit to fit my 6’8″ frame), and watching my wife fall in love with the AirCam, just as I did. Guys, if all you want to know about is homebuilts, there are plenty of kit manufacturers, plans makers, and fellow homebuilt enthusiasts at AirVenture. Everyday when I stopped by the Homebuilders shack it was full of happy guys and gals who spend hours talking to a prospective homebuilder, me; and everyone in that parking area acted happy to let me look at their plane and describe their building experience. Let us folks who love planes of all sizes, colors and uses enjoy AirVenture in its entirety, and will you please accept that the rest of us are not really concerned that more homebuilts come from kits than scratch anymore.

  34. Joseph masessa says:

    The inclusiveness of eaa allows anyone with any aviation interest to participate in this history making event each and every July, which I’ve attended for the last 12 years.I don’t believe there is a comparable aviation jamboree anywhere in the world.it truly is an amazing feat to see air venture unfold the week before the show starts.one can only imagine the amount of hours volunteers and eaa employees devote to make this work. I don’t know if 100000 or 1 million visits are counted But enough people come to enable the show to go on and enable eaa to start planning next years event and to remain a stable non government funded private aviation organization.negativity towards Mac and eaa officers is counterproductive .volunteers are a vital part of air venture and I’m sure there are openings if one wishes to be part of the team effort . We need to applaud and appreciate what the pobereznys started many years ago.while it is impossible to please everyone all of the time , rod Hightower and his team are tasked to ensure the growth and longevity of eaa and air venture ,and make eaa the organization that a hugely diverse group of aviators will continue to call their own. the real question is how many people are unhappy at air venture Oshkosh . A small number indeed.

  35. Dan Horton says:

    Again, we all love our annual convention. That is not the issue.

  36. Corey Cassavant says:

    All are welcome to attend and be included. We don’t want to exclude anyone. However, keep in mind that EAA was started as an EXPERIMENTAL aviation association. All of those certificated GA members came to join US because of what we were. If we want to water ourselves down and lose our focus on homebuilts, warbirds, vintage, etc, we’ll just become another AOPA and lose what drew all the members to us in the first place!

  37. Matt Hurley says:

    Sport Aviation will become like Flying magazine – beholden to the
    advertisers and not the readers, whom, if i’m correct, are the reason
    advertisers advertise…?
    That’s where the money is to feed the beast – they have to decide how big they
    want EAA or Airventure (that is the big money spinning event of the year)to be -
    and I mean that in terms of both (or either) revenue and/or membership. Is the goal
    to hit revenue targets or membership targets (when it comes to defending our flying rights, member numbers count just as much as the $’s necessary to deliver the message). JMac would do well to recall the
    meaning of E in EAA and the original intent of EAA. He would also do well to
    remember the number of members EAA has, their interests and their year round
    contribution to the association (time and money).
    I have no issue with Airventure or the wonderful outreach programs that EAA has initiated or supports. I do take issue with the soul of the association being hijacked by someone who has consistently supported, in his editorials, big money jets at the expense of the private pilot. For that reason I cancelled my subscription to Flying magazine several years ago. Under its new editorial staff i’m pleased to see that Flying magazine now appears to be focusing less on corporate jets and more on GA.
    It was never clear to me why JMac had a King Air as his ‘avatar’ when he was editor of Flying magazine instead of the Baron he flies. I wrote and asked him once but didn’t receive an answer – I can draw my own conclusion.

  38. Aaron Kaufman says:

    Hello Aviaion lovers. At 16 years of age, the passion for aviation burns wild in my heart. From where the dream started to where we are going amazess me every year. As my 7th year at AirVenture, my expectations were blown sky high(no pun intended) each and every year. Here is what confuses me, I do not understand Dan’s argument. I love the passion you have for EAA, however your arguement is not helping the association or aviation grow or improve. If the numbers are your arguement, make sure to set aside some time to sit at the head of Celebration Way next year. Then feel free to blog about the .5 million people that flow through that gate stareing at the c5 or c17 pointed at them in show center. Thank you mac for holding strong with your point. And Dan, make sure to get there eairly with a team of at least 50 people to count the .5 million people if you want your point proven. No matter if 1 or 1 million people attend, EAA and Airventure is where they come to learn about and experiance all things aviation. There is no need to argue the numbers when you have passionate people who show up every year to see this amazing event.
    With sinserity-Aaron

  39. James Wolfe says:

    It looks to me like Mac hit the nail on the head, but not quite the way he intended. Oshkosh has become THE issue for EAA—making money. When dues equal less than 20% and advertisers, sponsors, etc. equal three times as much, or more, who becomes the customer? Criticizing a member for taking an active interest in governance and even correct tally of attendance is definitely not responsible membership.

    Getting hot in the shorts because an F-18 flies by is fine for the non-members, but the members have a right to more. Without their 20% of funding, Oshkosh will come to a quick end, along with the EAA itself.

    Good governance means good data, good accounting, integrity, and the attention of the members.

    • Bob Orre says:

      Sorry James, but insinuating that EAA leadership is inflating, hiding, spinning or lying as some members seem to believe if you read some of the responses above is not responsible membership either. I’d be the first to admit if there was any fact regarding these acquisitions, that a full audit should occur. The only fact I’ve seen is that proxy votes weren’t published for two years. I don’t know why, nor do I think others really know why. However, they are willing to give us their opinion why. Is that not their “spin”?

      I agree that responsible management is paramount. Mac has stated Rod Hightower understands this. That’s enough for me. Time will tell whether he can produce. I’ll give the man a chance, and yes, he needs to hear (and listen to) constructive feedback from members.
      For the homebuilders commenting here, I’ve been to every Airventure since 1985. I have seen nothing but progress in the programs catering to home builders. What you don’t see is the extravagant kit built aircraft displays or sheer number of them that existed in the 90′s. That’s not EAA’s fault. That’s called economics. Sure, there’s room for improvement in how Airventure, chapters, and EAA are run. That will be the case no matter who’s running the joint. I think the best suggestion I saw was to give home builders a section of Airventure vs. being spread out. I’d vote for that. But please, leave the F18 alone. While I am a home builder, I will never get tired of heavy iron going through the paces.

      • Brad says:


        I think you summed it up quite nicely. Much of the hoardes of kits on display during the 80′s and early 90′s were nothing but pure crap. Kits have matured and those that have survived have done so because their designs are sound and their manufacturers care about a quality product. How does this natural evolution of things suddenly become “the EAA as we know it”?

        And yes, give Rod Hightower a chance. He was brought into the organization to lead, and he’s doing exactly that. I’ve met Rod, seen first hand how he does business, and I find him to be a class act completely devoted to the organization and its members.

        The organization is big, and it needs to be. Resources (that means money….that’s the world today folks, get over it) means influence and advocacy for aviation. If you want a cozy club of old guys with oxy-acetylene torches in their garages building ancient aircraft designs, then EAA isn’t it…..thank goodness.

  40. Dan Horton says:

    Fast forward…..The October issue of Sport Aviation has arrived in our mailboxes. The voting numbers for director positions were not disclosed, for the third year in a row. There is no webpage report at this time.

    Argue as you may about the change in EAA’s focus…..but what possible excuse can there be for hiding vote totals after more than 40 years of regular reports ?

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