EAA Oshkosh’s Golden Anniversary Celebration – 50 Notes From the 50th Celebration


The year 2019 marked half a century of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual Convention, and later AirVenture events at Oshkosh’s Whitman Regional Airport. There were earlier gatherings at different sites, but the Oshkosh airport has seen the EAA add much infrastructure over the years to meet the ever-growing demand of attendees to their annual Midwestern bash. Fifty years is a lot of history, and too much to chronicle here. But, although I attended the festivities for only the first 2 ½ days, there was plenty to see and do. Here are fifty snapshots of what I saw during the fiftieth anniversary of Oshkosh aviation meets:

1. Julie Clark and Matt Chapman likely gave their final performances over Oshkosh, as they both will end their aerobatic careers at the end of this year.

2. Tom Reilly’s masterpiece XP-82 Twin Mustang was a warbird star of the show.

3. Daher has acquired Quest Aircraft Company, and displayed both a TBM-940 and Kodiak 100 together.

4. Loads of North American P-51 Mustangs, including rare P-51A and P-51H versions were on the field to salute World War II ace Col. Bud Anderson.

5. A UPS Boeing B-747-8 freighter version helped to celebrate the design’s 50th anniversary.

6. Boeing also was represented by a new KC-46A Pegasus.

7. The Collings Foundation’s newly restored F6F Hellcat is painted up in a “delivery” scheme.

8. The EAA’s North American P-64 fighter took to the Oshkosh skies this year.

9. Aerial firefighting was showcased with a Canadair CL-215, BAE-146, Air Tractor 802 and Colorado Air National Guard MAFFS demonstrations.

10. World record speed holders Dierk Reuter and Phil Bozek talked about their trans-Atlantic dash between White Plains NY and Paris Le Bourget, France in a Daher TBM-930.

11. The Air Force Heritage Flight included an A-10, F-22, F-35 and P-51 while I was there.

12. There were loads of jet warbirds this year, from an F-5 and A-4 from the Vietnam War era, back to CT-133 Silver Stars and many Aero L-39s.

13. British warbirds included examples of a Mosquito, Sea Fury, Spitfire and Firefly.

14. Multiple C-47s and DC-3s that made the journey to Europe to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings were on hand.

15. Both flyable B-29 bombers were in the area, “Doc” on the Oshkosh grounds and “FIFI” in the air, giving rides out of nearby Appleton.

16. A rare Beech Starship – one that is still airworthy – helped to celebrate Burt Rutan’s designs.

17. A pair of Ford trimotors were busy taking passengers up on scenic rides too.

18. All three North American “big formation” military jet teams had a presence… the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds performed formation passes while enroute from one show venue to another, and one Snowbirds CT-114 actually stayed overnight, with its crew camping out next to it!

19. Ford Motor Company displayed this year’s raffle car – done up in Bud Anderson’s “Old Crow” colors.

20. It was the 70th anniversary of both the Beech T-34 Mentor and North American T-28 Trojan designs, and large formations of each type roamed the skies during a few of the air shows.

21. A four-ship Missing Man formation saluted Colonel Richard Cole, the last surviving Doolittle Raider who passed away this year.

22. United Airlines flew a Boeing B-787 to display in Boeing Plaza.

23. Iconic Bell 47 helicopters were still offering rides for passengers to get a better look at the sprawling convention grounds.

24. The EAA’s B-17 also lumbered over the airport, giving rides from Appleton.

25. Attendance was up at a record number, both in people attending and by aircraft categories.

26. The rains that closed camping and arriving aircraft due to soft ground and standing water was no match for the ground crews… by Sunday night the grounds were open again, after anywhere from 6 to 10 inches of rain fell the previous 2 ½ days.

27. Small personal jets, such as the Cirrus Vision, Eclipse Jet and Stratos 714 jet were displayed.

28. A Wisconsin Air National Guard KC-135R with the state’s college mascot, a badger, was joined by a Nebraska Army Guard UH-72A Lakota which carried the stylized “N” from their college’s Cornhusker team.

29. Multiple Twin Bonanzas showed up this year too.

30. A record number of seaplanes were shown, more attended and parked in the camping areas.

31. A Stinson trimotor joined the Fords as an example of airline and airmail luxury and speed during the ‘20s and ‘30s.

32. A Spartan Executive in Royal Air Force colors joined a Beech Staggerwing in Royal Navy colors too.

33. A Lockheed LC-130H, equipped with new 8-blade propellers and skis, stood on static display, courtesy of the New York Air National Guard.

34. Oshkosh Tower controllers, as well as those in the fields, wore their distinctive pink shirts for high visibility.

35. Every morning I was at the AirVenture, a quartet or more P-51s departed on a dawn patrol!

36. General Aviation seems to be alive and well, judging from the manufacturers’ displays.

37. Only a pair of YT-34Cs were built from T-34B piston trainers. The addition of the turboprop engine in the –C version allowed the type to be used into this century, as a trainer. One of the YT-34Cs was at AirVenture.

38. Rotary-winged aircraft were found in abundance this year, from autogiros to turbine-powered commercial transports.

39. Big-tired taildraggers were in abundance too!

40. There was a great assortment of round-engined Antiques and Classics this year.

41. Buffalo Airways’ C-FDTD, a DC-3C, wore commemorative “invasion stripes” colors in honor of the D-Day invasion at Normandy… and that same aircraft participated in the pre-dawn glider deployment some 75 years earlier.

42. Although probably not 50 years old, there were many modified VW Bugs that were used as transportation by those running the show.

43. A Classic Howard 500 – version of the Lockheed Lodestar, rumbled in too.

44. Not only were there many active military jets equipped with afterburners, a few warbird jets also used augmented thrust in this manner – like Randy Ball’s MiG-17. After all, one of the sub-themes of this year was the “Year of the Fighter”.

45. A Douglas A-26 Invader in Conair firebomber colors straddled the line between the warbirds and the aerial firefighting themes in this year’s show.

46. Orland Corben designed and built his “Baby Ace” design around the turn of the Great Depression, one example at Oshkosh was just built in 2014.

47. Canadian involvement at Oshkosh included many homebuilt aircraft and restored w3arbirds, such as a Fleet Finch.

48. Airbus displayed an electric airplane… the VAH001 Vahana.

49. A badge of honor is to have your aircraft photographed in flight over the sprawling AirVenture grounds, like this tri-motored (2 piston and 1 jet engine) YAK-110.

50. Sunrise is always a tranquil time at AirVenture in Oshkosh… that is until 7AM when the grounds’ speakers come to life with a time-honored collection of “wake up” dialogue and even a yodeler! That signals the time for campers tenting next to their airplanes to prepare for spectators who didn’t fly into this great gathering of aviation-minded individuals.

So, there are fifty points to ponder from the fiftieth Oshkosh show. I hope that I can attend next year, as the second half-century of the EAA’s events at Oshkosh begins to unfold.

Ken Kula

Assignment and Content Editor, writer and photographer A New Englander all of my life, I've lived in New Hampshire since 1981. My passion for all things aviation began at a very early age, and I coupled this with my interest of photography during college in the late 1970s. I spent 35 years in the air traffic control industry, and concurrently, enjoyed my aviation photography and writing adventures, which continue today. I've been quite fortunate to have been mentored by some generous and gifted individuals. I enjoy contributing to this great site and working with some very knowledgeable and equally passionate aviation followers.

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