EAA President Jack Pelton said it best, “The wait is over”, and indeed it was. It felt so good to be back “home” at AirVenture Oshkosh after last year’s cancellation due to the ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic. AirVenture this year posed some of the most unique and challenging planning hurdles to jump when it comes to holding an event of this magnitude during a Pandemic. In traditional EAA fashion everyone involved came together to present another memorable year for the Aviation Community. No one was really sure what this year would bring, but one thing was sure, it would bring Aviation Enthusiasts back together again for the 6-day event.
The facts and figures are starting to flow in and the numbers are staggering even amidst a Pandemic. The 2021 Convention was held from July 26th to August 1st with approximately 608,000 people in attendance and despite travel restrictions due to Covid-19, some 66 countries were still represented this year. This is only the 3rd time that attendance has topped 600,000 despite continued Covid-19 concerns and less than ideal weather. Oshkosh’s Wittman Field would be open between 0700-2000 during the event and saw over 116,000 aircraft operations in a 10-day period from July 22nd to July 31st. This makes Oshkosh the busiest airport in the world, with an average of 116 movements of all different types of aircraft per hour. It is this very reason that only the best Air Traffic Controllers are selected to handle the varying mix of traffic that AirVenture brings.
AirVenture almost takes on the look of a small city for the event, an estimated 40,000 people camped out on the grounds during the event. This is a combination of drive in and fly in campers. It is no surprise than that It takes a lot of volunteers to ensure AirVenture delivers a world class event, in 2021 over 5,000 volunteers contributed over 250,000 hours of time. AirVenture has a very heavy presence when it comes to Social Media as well, almost 19 million people were reached by EAA’s media channels during AirVenture with an engagement of over 1 million. In addition, 567 media representatives were on hand from 4 different continents to fully cover the event from start to finish. The 567 media representatives on hand, including myself, had several special events and attractions to cover over the 6 days, most carried over from last year.
One of these special attractions included a special salute to aircraft and organizations that provide humanitarian relief and assistance to those in need around the world. These aircraft included the one of a kind Orbis Flying Eye Hospital Boeing MD-10-30F, N330AU. This aircraft is dedicated to providing eye care and training to medical personnel in countries that have limited resources.
Samaritan’s Purse brought it’s McDonnell Douglas DC-8-72, N782SP one of only 5 DC8’s left flying in the world. This is the flagship aircraft of the organization and has delivered tons of food and aid to victims of wars and natural disasters.
UPS (United Parcel Service) brought a two-month-old Boeing 747-8F, N628UP to Oshkosh again this year. UPS has played a crucial role in the fight against Covid-19 by delivering over 400 million doses of the vaccines and tons of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) worldwide.
The US Air Force Reserve’s 911th AW (Airlift Wing) based at the Pittsburgh International Airport had Boeing C-17A Globemaster III tail number 21099 on display. This C-17 had an NPC (Negatively Pressurized Conex) onboard, this system was designed to safely isolate and provide inflight medical care to HCID (high consequence infectious disease) patients. This system has been used as part of the response to the ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic.
Boeing Plaza was full of “heavies” for this salute, and one could easily overlook Cessna Caravan N833EB, which flies under the Remote Area Medical Banner. This aircraft can carry three pop-up medical clinics including medical, dental and vision. The all-volunteer staff provides free medical care to those in need.
Another much anticipated attraction this year was a display of aircraft which are part of AFSOC (Air Force Special Operations Command). Several specialized aircraft were on static display, with several others flying in the afternoon airshows. AFSOC is comprised of highly trained Airmen that have specialized training in parachuting, scuba diving, rappelling, motorcycling, survival skills, rapid deployment, and many more.
These aircraft included several specialized versions of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules comprising the AC-130J Ghostrider Gunship, MC-130H Combat Talon II, and the EC-130J Commando Solo.
The tilt-rotor Boeing CV-22 Osprey.
Transport, Surveillance and Drone aircraft including the PZL C-145A Combat Coyote, Dornier C-146A Wolfhound, Pilatus U-28A Draco, Beechcraft MC-12W Liberty, and the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper.
The history of World War II was also told as EAA commemorated 75 (+1) years since the end of the conflict. This commemoration was also a holdover from last year, thus the reasoning behind the 75 (+1) designation. A number of rare warbirds were in attendance this year, some for the first time. These included a Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat and Lockheed P-38L Lightning from the Fagen Fighters WWII Museum.
The Dakota Territory Air Museum had several aircraft on hand including Supermarine Spitfire Mk1Xc and a Hawker Hurricane MK.XII.
A very welcome visitor in the form of N16854 a Rockwell OV-10D Bronco owned by OV-10 Squadron LLC.
The US military has always had a very strong presence at AirVenture with 2021 being no different. On hand this year were several examples of the Fairchild Republic A-10C Thunderbolt II, Boeing EA-18G Growler and the Boeing FA-18E/F Super Hornet. The German Luftwaffe even got in the action this year with Airbus Defence and Space A400M Atlas 54+06 flying with Air Transport Wing 62 based at Wunstorf Air Base.
Fast Jet Demo Teams were also present the week of AirVenture. The US Air Force sent the Viper Demo Team flying the Lockheed/General Dynamics F-16C Falcon. The US Navy had both the Rhino Demo Team flying the Boeing FA-18 E/F Super Hornet and the Growler Demo Team flying the Boeing EA-18G Growler. All three teams flew spirited solo displays and also flew Heritage and Legacy Flights with WWII Warbirds each day.
This is just a small sampling of what AirVenture brought the Aviation Enthusiast this year. Look for more in depth coverage and photos to come. If you have never considered a journey to Oshkosh, I strongly and highly recommend it, you will not be disappointed. Until Next time, “Blue Skies to All!”