The Best Oshkosh Ever? I Say Yes

It may be too bold to call this the best Oshkosh AirVenture ever, but can you remember a better one? I can’t.

The weather has been as close to perfect as anybody could ask for, and that is a crucial but uncontrollable element of any Oshkosh. After the flood three years ago, and roasting heat the following couple of years, this week’s temperatures in the 70s, low humidity, and absence of rain has been perfect.

I also think we are finally seeing an upturn in the overall economy. After five years of recession, economic indicators are pointing up, the stock market is setting records, interest rates are low, and inflation is tiny. That ray of economic light is also shining on aviation.

Of course, fuel prices are crushingly high, and the employment rate is worse than anyone wants to endure, but overall the economic situation is better. Confidence is the crucial ingredient of economic performance and I and so many others here have seen a growth in confidence on display at Oshkosh this year.

We won’t have final numbers on total attendance, number airplanes flying in and other data for a couple more days, but preliminary counts show everything on track with last couple of years.

The really terrific news is that every exhibitor that I have talked to or heard about is reporting expanded activity and sales. That is an absolutely clear indication that the people who come to Oshkosh are active in aviation, not just interested bystanders.

Companies that actually sell and deliver pilot supplies and other components here on the grounds are a great barometer of the health of Oshkosh, and all are reporting strong sales. The large outlets such as Aircraft Spruce and Sportys are seeing very strong sales for the week. And smaller more specialized exhibitors are also telling us they have had a great week, typically calling it the best ever.

Airplane and kit makers are taking orders here at the show at a rate not seen since the recession began in 2008, and in some cases at an all-time record pace. And there has been even greater growth in the number of interested and qualified prospects that are stopping by the many exhibits. These leads will become sales in the coming months.

Many exhibitors have devised tracking methods to identify and record the number of qualified prospects who stop by their display. Jeppesen is one of the companies that has collected consistent data tracking prospects over a number of years and reports that more interested and ready to buy people came by in the first couple of days than for the entire week in previous years.

The good weather put all of us in a good mood, and so did the new food services everywhere on the grounds. Oshkosh visitors have been asking for more variety and higher quality food for many years and, after a complete overhaul, we delivered. It was a risk to make so many changes in one year, but the hard work of the EAA team paid off. In 38 years of continuous Oshkosh attendance I have never heard fewer complaints, or more compliments, about the food.

More flushing toilets, more tram service, more camping spots with power and water and greater variety in the air show acts are also reasons to declare this the best Oshkosh. We all miss the active military aircraft presence, but you can’t beat “Jetman” making his first appearance in America.

We don’t help ourselves by sugar coating our problems. The issue of FAA charging for controller services looms large. And we still must halt the decline in the pilot population.

But we don’t help ourselves by dwelling only on the bad, either. These are the good old days and we are making the best of them. We need to celebrate our success, take joy in a great week of aviation, and know for sure that Oshkosh is aviation’s greatest celebration.

The best Oshkosh ever? Yes.

 Until next year.

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23 Responses to The Best Oshkosh Ever? I Say Yes

  1. Dave Volker says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with you in every respect. I am very glad I came this year and hope to come many more.

  2. Craig Maiman says:

    Agree completely! It was great and the perfect weather really helped.

    I was able to take a close up look at the kitplane I want to build and it was everything I hoped for and more. I’ll be buying the first section of the gorgeous Sling 4 kit this December for sure. :-)

  3. Steve Carter says:

    Mac

    Really glad you enjoyed the show. Really sad that EAA was the first to pay User Fees to the Government for allowing its members to attend this years event. I did not attend and most probably won’t after 20 or so years of attendance. Maybe the new members won’t be offended by paying for these fees like the old members and that will be good for you. Best ever? Doubt it Mac! SR71? Concorde? Antonov 225? Vjet? So many more.
    Please tell Jack Pelton that his name will be recorded as the first to pay the FAA for user fees to land in the USA. Happy landings.

    • Ray W. says:

      Not true Steve. Sun-n-Fun had to pay over $200,000 in April to the FAA for ATC services, and there have been other smaller shows charged. I agree with the EAA. Don’t cancel one of the most important events for the health of GA just to make a point. Hold the event, and then fight or what is right through the courts and other systems set up to help prevent the government from over stepping.

      • steve carter says:

        Woops

        Forgot that about Sun and Fun so Oshkosh had a preview of what was coming in April. I’m not advocating cancellation of OSH! I am advocating smash mouth in your face litigation with FAA. Something EAA seems unwilling to do. Why didn’t Jack and legal team take flight to D.C. to Federal Court and file lawsuit there immediately? Also file petition for Injunctive relief (from paying the 400 plus fees) at the same time requesting an immediate audience with the so called “administrator”….you know the one that couldn’t attend OSH because of a boy scout function with his son? It’s apparent where Herta is standing and being nice is not the way to deal with these folks. They’re not being nice with us are they? Maybe I’m confused about who is supposed to be working for who here. 2/3/4 wrongs don’t make it right. Prevent the government from overstepping? I think that time has passed

  4. Tyler Sibley says:

    I think saying this was the “Best ever” is quite an overstatement. Was it successful? Yes. Did the volunteers work their butts off as usual? Yes.
    This was my 20th Oshkosh and I can remember many more that had better turn outs, and more impressive displays.
    We can’t expect every year to be groundbreaking awesomeness, and I think this year will just go down as one of those years that filled in the gaps between the really great years.
    Congrats and thanks to all of the hard working volunteers that made this magnificent event happen!

  5. Gary B. says:

    Of this year and last (the only two shows I have attended), this year certainly flowed better than last year. The layout of the grounds was more efficient, the daily airshows were more entertaining and faster paced, and the food selection was indeed better. But, it did feel a little lacking without the military presence and lesser variety of big aircraft in Phillips 66 Plaza. However, it did have a cheerier feel than last year, and I think it’ll be more than just a “filler between great years”. I just hope Washington gets its act together (or gets kicked out of town) so it doesn’t ruin the slowly-improving economy and state of general aviation.

  6. John E. says:

    I thought it was a great AirVenture, and the beautiful weather certainly helped. I camped in the North 40 next to my plane, north of Rwy 09-27, and the number of campers there was way down from 2009 and 2011. It certainly wasn’t due to the fair price of gas at Basler ($5.39/gal !).

  7. Mike L Massey says:

    Lets be honest here. This show was a success even though our current administration has nothing but contempt for airplane owners. Even though the show itself generates an incredible amount of tax revenue. We know where we stand.
    The current government is not airplane friendly or business friendly.
    God bless successful business people and airplane owners. God bless America.

  8. mikewisc says:

    This was my first Airventure, so I can’t compare it with others. But I was extremely glad that I attended! Never before had I the chance to not only see such a wide variety of aircraft up close, but speak to their owners/restorers/pilots. The air shows were impressive, but I really enjoyed the factual presentations even more. The “Wildcat” restoration project was nothing short of fascinating, and proved that every airplane is so much more than the “sum of the parts” — but also about the interesting people and events behind them. I was glad to hear some speakers on the Warbirds stress how awful the air combat could be, and that even when shooting down an enemy, there was questioning of whether one could stomach it all for much longer. This was, for me, the stuff of real, authentic history. I hope Airventure continues to keep a firm footing on educational presentations. A huge “thank you” to all EAA personnel who made this happen — from top administrators to the volunteers.

  9. Jack says:

    Best ever?? What have you been smoking Mac? Think back on some of the aircraft that have been featured at Oshkosh over the years. This year you had a “stunt man” that you couldn’t see anyway because he turned into a speck above about 400 feet, and that tired old carnival attraction, ladies and gentlemen I give you the amazing “flying car”. Sigh. The airshow, as usual, supplied an overabundance of aerobatic acts all doing essentially the same thing over and over and over again. (The airshow needs to be shortened to 1 or 2 aerobatic acts – that’s enough.)

    I’m glad it went down fairly well, all things considered. Rod Hightower nearly destroyed EAA and Oshkosh and it is going to take a few years to repair the damage. EAA management must be thanking their lucky stars for Jack Pelton – he may just save their bacon.

  10. Bob O. says:

    Apparently, the old adage is true… Whatever you do, you can’t make everyone happy. I thought it was a great event this year. I was disappointed I could only attend the first two days vs. staying the whole week like we usually do. Did I miss some of the military jets, yes. We didn’t have some of the cool, unique “feature” aircraft in Phillips 66 plaza that we’ve seen in the past. But, on a positive, this allowed the event to focus less on military and commercial aircraftcand more on home builts – can anyone say “flying car”? Keep up the great work EAA, and thank you for everything you do!

  11. John G says:

    Mac,

    that was a good report, I thought it was a great show as well. I thought it “more” reflected that we are trying to live within our means. Maybe next year we can take the next step, have more display flights of the gorgeous show winners and all? of the kits that are available. I would have loved to have seen my radial Pitts kit fly :(

    For anyone who hasn’t seen the night aerobatics, after 40 years of shows, WOW!

    The Pearl harbor display was great. The mix of warbirds after that was a mess, L39′s mixed in with a PT19? What was that? The Vietnam display, not one T-28 did a bomb run. Then, thankfully, the guys from Minnesota displaying the gorgeous zero, corsair, P-40, mustang and B-25, that was a fantastic display of performance.

    Please return the Jumbo Tron, why do I need a TV at an airshow? This is a celebration about “doing it” please don’t waste my dues on a TV.

    The camping was fantastic, shower at noon was great! Waking up to a Merlin idling, what could be better?

    I’m sorry, the lazy corporate food and bad beer was horrible. I would have much rather had us all pitch in and volunteer to cook one day, sandwiches, salads, burgers, eggs and pancakes, pancakes, where were the EAA blueberry pancakes? A salad bar??? There are no microbrew beer makers in Wisconsin???? I would have loved to have sampled those!

    Two days was good, only heard one heated argument, over the Warbird display fuel deal.

    I had fun, thanks!

    • Greg Right says:

      “Please return the Jumbo Tron, why do I need a TV at an airshow?” John, thank you. It’s kind of like having a blasted TV blaring away at a restaurant while you are trying to eat your dinner. Just unbelievably irritating. That kind of distracting technology is everywhere these days. The last thing we need is more of it! Please get rid of the TV.

    • mikewisc says:

      I viewed the air show in a place where I didn’t even notice the Jumbo Tron. But I agree wholeheartedly. Too much addiction to images on screens these days. Aren’t we supposed to go to live events to experience it all with our own, unfiltered senses?

  12. Ted Klapka says:

    A bad Oshkosh?!? I dont think those exist. Best Oshkosh ever? Maybe…who knows, frankly, who cares? A trip to Oshkosh is a trip to aviation’s Mecca, it is a pilgrimage. It is the Journey that counts. My experience to OSH started with my radio call to Potomac Approach to transit the DC ADIZ, it included gas, dinner and a band at the wonderful I40 airport and an unplanned RON in the wonderful town of Van Wert Ohio. I got to pick up my best friend at FLD so we could enjoy the Fiske arrival together. I was awed by the nonchalance and pluck of an amputee Mom and her daughter. While there were scads of adult toys to gawk at, it was the people that made it special.

    While not everyone at OSH is a pilot, they are all aviators. Perhaps to turn a phrase of Shakespeare’s time on its head, there are no Groundlings at OSH. I was among my tribe as they gathered from every corner of the globe. I can’t wait to return and I hope somehow to make it a little better.

    • mikewisc says:

      “While not everyone at OSH is a pilot, they are all aviators.” People like me, who are not pilots, but very interested in aviation, thank you for this comment. While I think I am too old (at 60) to pilot airplanes (although some tell me not to rule it out), I am nevertheless intrigued by aviation history, aircraft design, and hearing great stories about this audacious human quest. EAA embraces all who have interest, and this inclusiveness is one of it’s most admirable values. Best wishes with your continued involvement, and hoping you have an even better time in 2014!

      • Reid Sayre says:

        “While I think I am too old (at 60) to pilot airplanes…..”

        The flying octogenarians do not agree with you. Have a look at “http://ufopilots.org/”.

        In my case, I did not start until age 62, and I have completed commercial pilot and instrument rating.

        The event that got me going was a story at my FBO. One day a couple was traveling cross-country in their 152 and stopped for fuel. It turns out they were both pilots and they spent much of their retirement time visiting their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She was 85 and he was 89. So I figured I had a few years left and started training the following weekend.

        • Ted Klapka says:

          A Flying Octogenarians society? Way cool!!! I now have a Goal!

          Do you suppose in 20+ years their standards will decay to where they will accept me? (AARP’s did)

  13. Sam Snow says:

    It had been several years since I was last able to be attend Oshkosh. The forums, booths, and educational opprotunities I attended were excelent.

    Three points of potential improvement:
    1. Yes, fewer port-o-lets were noticed (as already noted). This was only partially offset by the very nice flush toilets attached to two of the exibitor halls.

    2. The airshows that I saw each had multiple dead periods, or portions where you wished they would get to the next part. Specific (non-comprehensive) examples:
    a). Honda jets doing a fly by during the middle of the airshow (why not do that as part of the pre-show, or were they paying for that slot as an advertisment?).
    b). Otto the Helicopter going right after the Red Bull copter. (Nothing against little Otto, who can put on an good show, but the Red Bull could do a lot more than him. I did hear that Otto had an excelent night performance).

    3. Sunday. The last day has always been a challenge. If I had only been able to attend on Sunday I would have been asking for a refund. What can be done to encourage people to stay? Multiple areas were all packed up and deserted by Sunday noon. The trams were stopped by 2 or 3pm and the speakers removed from the flightline in many areas. In face, I was enjoying one more ice cream from Kelly’s (hopefully they will be back), close to the brown arch when the jetman was flying in the final part of the airshow and suddenly they were shutting off and taking down the speaker there at the brown arch. Is there any hope for the last day?

  14. Nigel Hitchman says:

    Well I didn’t think it was the best Oshkosh ever, but it certainly was a good year, one of the best in the last 5 or 6. However I can think of much better years back in the 80s and 90s. And I’m talking about the real Oshkosh, the flyin, not commercial stuff and over hyped airshow. I thought this year had the best turnout of antiques for many years, a really great effort by the guys promoting the radial roundup, some great new restorations and some really rare aircraft. Warbirds were similar,can’t think of a year where there were so many new restorations.
    I though the idea of the return of the champions was great too, very good to see the 1963 homebuilts grand champion midget mustang and others honoured and I’m sure it got many attending who otherwise might not have flown in.

    I couldn’t care less if the modern military come, in other years there are plenty of military shows you can go to if you want to see them, nothing against them, but for me they are not what EAA is about. It was a pleasure not to have to suffer endless noisy passes every time yet another F16 arrived disrupting the rest of the arriving traffic. This time we did get a few more flybys from warbirds and other interesting aircraft as they arrived which was great.

    the airshow is far too long, far too many aerobatic acts. I was amazed how jetman continued to be talked up by the announcers when clearly he was totally unsuitable as an airshow act, just a dot in the sky that half the people couldn’t see! Great for TV but not for Oshkosh. More flybys from interesting EAA aircraft is what I’d like to see and a return for the antique and classic parade of flight, perhaps smaller on more days, like the homebuilts do.
    By far the best bit of the airshow was the Texas Flying Legends show, this is how the rest of the warbird show should be organised, not endless going round in circles far away with mock explosions! I almost thought I was at Duxford or La Ferte Alais their show was so good.
    Tora Tora Tora was good too, although a bit too much smoke!

    Great that the chalets on the flightline were removed, along with the massive speakers. Those speakers we still have though need more use of the volume control. Listening to Steve Buss was fine, but some of the others who shout and scream need to be shown the door.

    So not the best ever, but perhaps a great new start, let’s move a bit more back to EAA and away from commercial or military. Please can we have the grass runway back.

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