As this visit to the Oshkosh Airventure was on my bucket list, I was told it is now my turn to write the blog. Apparently!
It is very difficult to put into words the amazing experience we have witnessed these last 4 days but hopefully some of the pictures will give you an idea. Some facts that may astound you:
* 500 000+ visitors over the week, from 65 countries (RSA being in 3rd place with 123 visitors), 99% from the USA
* 800+ exhibitors (planes, parts, accessories etc)
*10 000+ fly in planes (visitors who have planes that flew in and camped under their plane wing!)
* Total showplanes: 2,649 – including close to 1,000 homebuilts, 1,050 vintage airplanes, 303 warbirds, 122 ultralights and light-sport aircraft, 91 seaplanes, 40 rotorcraft, 38 aerobatic aircraft, and eight hot-air balloons.
* Visiting planes and air show planes flew the equivalent of 1500 times around the globe over the week! An amazing statistic!
* Oshkosh Airventure started 60 years ago and has grown from year to year.
* Over 5400+ aviation enthusiasts/volunteers give up their time for help out each year at the show
* 2014 was the first time the US Thunderbirds attended the airshow (and what a show they put on – see pics below)
* 2500 volunteers put together a kit plane over the 7 days, from crates to taking off on the airstrip – an amazing feat (see pics below)
The highlights of each day can be read here: http://www.eaa.org/en/airventure/features-and-attractions/eaa-airventure-daily-highlights-schedule
Neil Bowden from RSA arranges this annual trip and what a great job he did. We only joined in for the last 4 days but for the die-hards you can join the team back home and fly out for the week and back again – that is what the majority of the ZAffers did.
We arrived at lunchtime on Thursday after a very short drive from our previous stopover. We were told that our vehicle pass would be left at the gate. However, on arrival we found that there were many many gates so decided to choose one and try our luck. The person we spoke to knew exactly where our campsite was after I told her where we were from, “Aha, the noisy South African Camp site – go to 40th Avenue – you will hear and see them all there!”.
The South African camp site was very well laid out (corner of 40th Ave and Mandela Blvd!) with a large kitchen area, marquee for entertainment (duh!) and pub (duh!). We were the only country to provide an entertainment area at Oshkosh so we had many visitors arriving each night! We know how to party us ZAffers!
Our two tents were ready for us so we unpacked the car and the boys and I headed off to the air field. Liz was still not well (antibiotics for a sore throat) so she stayed and relaxed in the tent.
We walked through a number of hangars which housed a number of aviation suppliers and then walked through the many areas where there were planes, sea planes, motors and micro light exhibits.
After about 4 hours of walking we were still in the initial exhibition area and there were still many areas to explore! 4 days was not going to be enough.
From 2-4pm each day there was an airshow with a variety of planes that did their thing. From the old War Planes, to new mini-jets to bi-planes and aerobatics – we were entertained like you cannot believe. One of my favourite demonstrations each day was the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, aka The Osprey. It is American military tiltrotor aircraft with both a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL), and short takeoff and landing (STOL) capability. It is designed to combine the functionality of a conventional chopper with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft. It has huge rotors that make a real ‘whoop whoop whoop’ sound when it flies past. A marvel of technology I must say.
We enjoyed a beer or two meeting the other South Africans at the camp (never thought I would be so excited about hearing ZA accents after 3 months!). Neil and his team prepared a great meal (on the braai!) and we relaxed until bedtime. However the party continued for quite a while until the police came and told everybody to go to bed. Only South Africans know how to party neh!
We were woken up fairly early with light aircraft flying over the campsite so we got up and made our way down to the airfield again. They had trams and buses available if you did not want to walk the length and breadth of the airfield so this is what we did as Elizabeth was up and about but still not feeling very well.
We also heard this morning that there had been a fatal accident yesterday involving a Breezy plane. The pilot passed away and his passenger was still in ICU. Amazing with the number of planes and people flying that there was only one accident during the week.
Once again we did as much as we could and then waited for the afternoon airshow. In the meantime, the boys had found a spot that was selling remote controlled planes and helicopters etc. They decided to join the other pilots and they spent some of the their savings on a plane and a Quadcopter. Needless to say I assumed that these gadgets would only last a day but as I am typing this blog, they are still in one piece!
As mentioned earlier, a number of volunteers and members of the public put together a kit plane over the 7 days, from crates to taking off on the airstrip. Labelled as the “One Week Wonder“, the hangar was a continuous buzz of activity and it was great to see the plane grow from pieces of plane to a flying machine at the end of the week:
Another interesting aspect of the airshow was the number of campers who arrived. From a multi million Dollar RV that arrived to thousands of smaller RV’s to tens of thousands of tents – all you could see for miles and miles were the happy campers (including this interesting number!:
On Friday all the international visitors did the ‘fan walk’ to the air strip where we were addressed by the CEO of EAA. They really made us feel welcome and we were all very proud wearing our Oshkosh shirts and carrying the national flag.
The boys and I took a bus ride to view the sea planes at a nearby lake (also part of Oshkosh). This was also amazing as there were close to 100 sea planes of all shapes and sizes moored to the dock and on the banks of the lake. We were lucky enough to see a number take off and land while were were there. Yes, Cameron was actually totally thrilled to be there!
The highlight of the trip was clearly the demonstration by the ‘Thunderbirds’ flying their F16 Falcon’s.
The little hair I still have on my neck stood up each time they flew past – something very difficult to put into writing but a truly amazing experience. This was the first time they had been present at this 60 year old show and was the reason the Saturday crowds were up by over 20% this year. We spoke to people who drove over 5 hours to come through for the day trip!
After the afternoon air show, there was a 2 hour break and then the evening show started! I did not realise you could attach fireworks to a plane! Once again, very hard to put into words but I hope some of the videos will help!
What is an airshow without a dragster demo!? This was quite amazing to watch as well:
We packed up on Sunday morning and left for Minneapolis with both boys asking if we could come back next year! It was truly an amazing experience and I would clearly like to come back next year – we will have to see how it goes with the $$$’s between now and then. To any aviation enthusiasts reading this – book your place now! Thanks to Liz for going out of her comfort zone (literally) this week to make this trip happen for her 3 boys.