By Tanner Overland The mornings are getting cooler and the days shorter, how can it be fall already? This action-packed summer certainly flew by, with happenings and events nearly every weekend, like Fly-ND Summerfest, fly-ins, air shows, and of course Oshkosh AirVenture!
AirVenture 2023 was my third EAA AirVenture I’ve attended at the splendid Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, WI. Having never attended “Oshkosh” until 2021, I’m making up for lost time by going every year since then and I plan on making it my annual summer pilgrimage.
This year’s AirVenture was terrific, made even better with the unique opportunity to take in one of the daytime airshows from the air traffic control tower at Oshkosh; the busiest airport in the world (well, at least for one week in July.) What an awesome experience! While people joke “it must just be chaos up there with all those aircraft”, I was somewhat surprised and relieved to learn just the opposite after speaking with the air traffic controllers. As one of the air traffic controllers explained to me, “It’s a well-choreographed dance each year, with only the best-of-the-best air traffic controllers being invited to make up the team of about 80 Oshkosh air traffic controllers during the show.” The controllers tasked with keeping the operations at AirVenture safe and efficient come from near and far throughout the country. They each work a couple of hours before taking a break to keep them fresh, and they rotate from the control tower out to the arrival reporting points of Fisk and Ripon. It was certainly all smiles up in the tower.
This year was also my first-year tent camping on the airport grounds in Camp Scholler, named after early EAA supporters Ray and Bernice Scholler. While tent camping makes one yearn for a comfy bed and ice-cold air conditioning to offer a brief reprieve from the sizzling Wisconsin summer sun, it provides a greater, more-authentic experience and a sincere appreciation of AirVenture and the camaraderie it provides.
While certainly a bit overwhelming in the daytime by the record-breaking crowd of 677,000 fellow aviation enthusiasts, things calm down at night and it’s easy to stroll amongst the aircraft and connect with those around you. One night, after a drenching line of thunderstorms rolled through, we met Stephan, one of our tent neighbors in Camp Scholler. Over a headlamp-lit-dinner consisting of a box of Cheez-Its and an M.R.E. pouch of dehydrated pad thai, Stephan enthusiastically described his travels from his home in Frankfurt, Germany to Oshkosh, WI. He wanted to make the trip for years, but just couldn’t make it work - until this year! This was his first time at AirVenture, and the experience was so much more than anything he ever imagined. And it was; the nighttime air show, the rows and rows of every aircraft imaginable packed into every square foot of available grass, the Yellow Ribbon Honor Flight’s salute to veterans, and the way the Pratt & Whitney radial engines reverberate deep inside your lungs when Team Aeroshell’s five AT-6 Texans fly over you in a tight formation at dusk.
EAA AirVenture is more than just an airshow, it’s an experience. An experience that provides a sincere appreciation of all-things aviation and a connection amongst everyone in our industry, whether it be a general aviation pilot from Williston, ND, or an aviation enthusiast from Frankfurt, Germany.
If you’ve put EAA AirVenture on your to-do list but just haven’t gotten around to doing it yet, put it on the top of your to-do list for next year; hopefully I’ll see you in Oshkosh at AirVenture 2024!