EAA AirVenture Oshkosh
Every summer Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin becomes the busiest airport in the world, accommodating the needs of more than 10 000 aircraft over the week long event known as EAA AirVenture. From homebuilts and warbirds to fifth-generation fighter jets and sophisticated modern drones, all types of aircraft are on display for the more than 500 000 aviation enthusiasts that attend. Vendor booths, speakers symposiums and static displays engage visitors during the morning and early afternoon while aircraft constantly arrive and depart from the perpendicular runways. Everything stops at 2pm when the focus shifts skyward to the daily air show that features a different schedule each day to showcase the best aviation has to offer. Oshkosh is a truly unique event and yet with all the attractions to see throughout the day, the organizers, volunteers and visitors would all agree that it’s the comfortable, relaxed atmosphere that bring them back every year to the World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration.
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh returned in 2021 and opened its gates to the third largest show in the 51 year history of the event. There were plenty of outstanding warbirds on the ground and in the air to celebrate the end of World War II (75+1) and a special highlight was the US Air Force Special Operations Command and their presentations highlighting the capabilities of their aircraft and personnel. The weather cooperated enough to allow the daily air shows to happen but photography opportunities were limited due to the clouds and smoke that were common in the skies over KOSH. The Dakota Territory Air Museum deserves a special mention as most of their collection participated in the show, including their Spitfire Mk.IXc and Hurricane Mk.XII. While the US Air Force F-16 Viper Demo Team and their specially painted F-16CM and Heritage Flights were impressive, they may have been upstaged by the US Navy Growler Demo Team, Rhino Demo Team and Legacy flights. The two-ship Growler display was spectacular as the aircraft used lots of afterburner and produced plenty of vapour.
Although Oshkosh is relatively close to my home in Toronto, especially considering some of the more distant aviation events I have attended, I had never been. So when I saw a promotion by the Yankee Air Museum to attend the event on July 25, 2019, flying-in on their Douglas C-47D Skytrain 'Hairless Joe', I immediately reserved a seat.
I have been to a lot of aviation events over the years and many can be viewed in one day, however that is certainly not the case with the overwhelming amount to see and do at Oshkosh. Aircraft are grouped by type in massive areas that take quite a while to fully appreciate. In the middle of the grounds is the Boeing Plaza, home to many of the feature attractions and surrounded by the workshop plaza, multiple exhibit hangars, a theatre and a market.
The most enjoyable aspect for me was the quantity of warbirds in gathered. Although the flying display changes over the week long event, Thursday July 25th was warbird day meaning many of these special aircraft flew that afternoon. My favourite being Rod Lewis’ recently restored de Havilland Mosquito FB Mk.VI, one of only four airworthy Mossies in the world. To celebrate the ‘Year of the Fighter’ eighteen North American P-51 Mustangs were part of the day’s display, conducting a mass run-up, flybys and concluding with a missing man flyover. Two Mustangs were also part of the Heritage Flight, joining the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Teams. Finally, although they didn’t fly that day, it was fantastic Tom Reilly’s North American XP-82 Twin Mustang and the Collings Foundation’s freshly restored Grumman F6F-3N Hellcat. Many thousands of hours of work were needed to bring these planes back to airworthy status so that they can be enjoyed as intended while celebrating the history they represent.
Oshkosh was better than I imagined, which says a lot as I had very high expectations. I will definitely be returning for future shows with a plan to spend more than one day and also hope to someday fly an aircraft to the show and camp under its wing.