More than a few people have been surprised to see Boeing become a major sponsor and presence at Oshkosh.
The main aircraft display ramp is now named Boeing Plaza.
What’s going on, they have asked me. Isn’t Oshkosh about personal and recreational aviation?
The answer is yes, Oshkosh is about personal and private flying. But it’s really about everything that flies.
What Boeing, Rockwell Collins, Honeywell, Embraer, Pratt & Whitney, GE and dozens of other major aerospace companies have done is puncture the myth that any segment of aviation can operate in isolation.
There is even a real rocket company, ATK, here talking about a mission to Mars.
Of course the homebuilt airplanes, antiques, ultralights, warbirds and standard category GA airplanes are all still here. The aerospace guys haven’t taken over. But they have joined in.
A major reason for Boeing and the other industry giants to pay attention to Oshkosh and the hundreds of thousands of people who come here is to find the next generation of pilots, technicians, engineers and all of the skilled people the industry needs going forward.
Boeing announced results of a study showing the world’s airlines will need 533,000 new airline pilots and 584,000 new maintenance technicians over the next 20 years.
Nearly half of those jobs will be in the rapidly expanding Asia/Pacific region. But in North America jobs will open up for 88,000 new airline pilots.
Boeing and its Jeppesen charting and training division have formed a new program to screen and train future airline pilots from scratch. Boeing and Jeppesen have a global reach, but even they can’t train enough pilots for future demand. It’s an industry challenge that everyone needs to pull together to solve.
The presence of the industry giants in Oshkosh is a long term investment in today’s young people who are the future of aerospace. Interesting kids in the sciences and math aerospace needs is essential, and showing them what a career in aviation can be is the best way to accomplish that goal.
Another reason for the big companies to be at Oshkosh is that the grassroots have long been the source of people to fly, build and maintain airplanes of all sizes and types. The military once was a reliable source for well trained pilots and technicians but those days are gone. People interested in airplanes must now be the source for future skilled workers in aviation.
There is also what marketers call the “influencer” story at work. An influencer is somebody who won’t necessarily buy a Boeing, or select Rockwell Collins avionics, or sign off on a new military contract, but who is in a position to influence that decision.
The challenge is that nobody can be sure who the influencers are. And we certainly can’t know which of the young people here at Oshkosh will succeed in their careers to become very important influencers.
At Oshkosh you can’t be sure who that person walking along in casual clothes looking like the rest of the crowd really is. But we can be sure that within the hundreds of thousands who visit there are people who can make decisions of great importance in aerospace. And we can also be sure that many people here will be able to influence the decisions that are made.
On top of all of that Boeing reaches from the basic personal airplane all the way to the Dreamliner. For just $49 a year Jeppesen, a Boeing company, will sell you an annual subscription for your iPad or other tablet computer that contains every chart and all information for VFR flight in the U.S.
The price of a 787 Dreamliner? Well, that’s a little more. But Oshkosh and the people who come here have an interest, and impact, on that decision, too.
We who fly, build, repair and love airplanes really are part of one big family and Oshkosh is the family reunion.