The Airshow at AirVenture 2014


At the end of every summer in Oshkosh Wisconsin there is a gathering that’s billed as the “world’s greatest aviation event”. The Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual convention is known by its location… Oshkosh; but officially it’s known as “AirVenture”.   Composed of a variety of things: an “airplane show” where the best of the best aircraft are compared and judged; a world class aviation trade show; a reunion of members who may only see each other in person once a year; countless other events and it’s the best airshow of the year. Best of all this event is open to the public.

For most of my life I’ve gone to airshows. from the first trip to the EAA’s convention in Rockford in 1966. I’ve done them all from the Reno Air Races to local county airshows. For the last ten years or so I’ve been in the media area, watching the show from an area segregated from the rest of the spectators. I lost some touch with the people who stand in the crowd and actually make the event possible by being there. This year I tried something different, I spent a day back in the crowd, trying share their experience.

Event we see here goes back to the basement of EAA Founder Paul Poberezny in Milwaukee in 1953. Paul started the Experimental Aircraft Association and over the next 60 years grew it into something really special and unique. Paul passed from this life August 22, 2013 right after last year’s convention.

There was a tribute to Paul Poberezny at the beginning of every show. Paul was well known for flying his P-51 during the event. There were airshows this year opened by homebuilts Paul designed and built and used to promote and build the EAA.   Several of the airshows this year were opened by a P-51. Standing in the crowd I got a good view of those openings.

To get the daily show off to a good start you need something that steals the crowd’s attention. The P-51 they picked to open the show was perfect.   Quick Silver is a very special Mustang, it’s the lightest sport P-51D in the world (racers excluded) which means it’s fast and responsive, and perfect for aerobatics. Scott Yoak, did several passes over the runway, while the announcer explained the history of the EAA and Paul Poberezny. Quick Silver shot up and down the runway very low, with the power set at 40″ and 2700 RPMs, which is about the highest setting you can pull on 100LL fuel and expect the engine to last very long. Quick Silver was moving at 375 MPH, a speed that a “normal” weight P-51 could never keep up with. The passes straight and smooth and Quick Silver looked like a laser beam shooting down the runway, the sound from the Packard Merlin caught everyone’s attention. Looking around at the crowd, there were few people who were not completely captivated. The audience approved, Quick Silver was a hit and the show got off to a great start.

A great show requires great choreography, and the EAA puts on a show that moves quickly and smoothly. There is a flow from performance to performance which keeps the crowd’s interest. The schedule changed daily and it covered a wide range from jet warbirds to an Alaskan short take off contest, along with the many, many, many other airshow acts that appear here.

In all the years of that the EAA has put on their convention, they have never had the USAF Thunderbirds appear.   Well, this year was a first, and the Thunderbirds came in from Nellis AFB and put on their superb show.   The Thunderbirds arrived on Thursday and put on a practice show on Friday with the regular shows on Saturday and Sunday. The show attracted a huge local crowd which was in addition to the “normal” EAA audience.   Watching the crowd, they were mesmerized, the young, the old, and everyone in between was captivated by the precision flying, as well as the speed and noise. Of course the best part of the Thunderbird’s performance is the “sneak pass”. As the group formation does a maneuver on the right, a solo F-16 “sneaks” in from the left and fly down the crowd line to the right at 50′ and 500+kts. I’ve seen it 100 times and every last one surprised the audience. Hopefully, many of the locals who came this year to see the Thunderbirds will show up again next year to see the whole event.

The crowd was very satisfied; I know, I looked and I didn’t see anyone that wasn’t smiling. The daily airshow went off without any problems and the people loved it. The variety of acts, the timing, and the atmosphere made everyone a believer that the Experimental Aircraft Association puts on the best aviation event and airshow in the business. For 2015 keep July 20-26 open and start making reservations to be here and enjoy the experience.

I’d like to thank Dick Knapinski, EAA Senior Communications Advisor for the EAA for making this story possible. I’d also like to thank the USAF Thunderbirds, and all the airshow performers at 2014 AirVenture, as well as Linda Yoak who sent her son Scott and their P-51 Quick Silver to the show.

You can contact the author Mark Hrutkay at TNMark1@GMail.Com


Mark Hrutkay

Mark has been a member of the International Association of Aviation Photographers (ISAP) for several years and attends all their events and seminars. He has won several awards for his work and has been published in several aviation magazines, domestic and foreign. You can contact Mark Hrutkay at TNMark@Me.Com.

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