Even Before Airventure Opens, There Is Plenty To See, And
People To Meet
By Tom Patton
With all the innovation and air show excitement that fills the
week of AirVenture, the day before opening day has become just
about my favorite time to be at Wittman Regional Airport. There is
a purposefulness among those still scrambling to get their exhibits
set up and tweaked for display, but the rest of the grounds have a
far more laid-back feel ... like its taking a breather before the
show reaches V1 and rotates.
(L-R) Maxine Scheer, Yohn Ylinen, Will Elder, Jorden
We are, of course, here to work. And with 15 or so staff and
stringers at the show, getting everybody "legal" is sometimes a
task unto its self. Sunday morning Maxine Scheer, John Ylinen (and
yes, that's pronounced "Lenin"), Will Elder, and Jordan Spradley
made their way to the registration tent to be tagged and released.
Each AirVenture participant and visitor has to have a wrist band,
and for those of us here for the week, well it's not a removable
item. Properly credentialed, we loaded up onto one of our golf
carts which buzz around the Wittman Field grounds for the grand
tour, and even before the show gets into full swing, there is
plenty to tour.
In the Warbirds area, also known as "Fighter Town", the
airplanes run the gamut from a rare MiG-15 and a T-33 Shooting Star
to this beautifully-restored 1959 Navion in Marine Corps colors.
While developed shortly after WWII primarily for the civilian
market, the Navion was adopted by the military as a four-place VIP
transport airplane. The description hanging from the prop of this
aircraft said that many of the design features North American
incorporated into the P-51 Mustang wound up in the post-war Navion,
such as the sliding canopy and bullet-proof wing. There are still
many of these easily-recognizable airplanes flying today.
AirVenture, of course, draws the unusual as well, and one of the
most unique-looking aircraft here could be this 1958 Edgar Percival
EP-9. Designed as a utility aircraft for agricultural use, the pod
and boom design allowed the aircraft to be fitted with a hopper for
crop spraying. It could also be configured to carry four passengers
in the main fuselage section, and the clamshell side and rear doors
allowed the aircraft to carry standard size wool and straw bales,
U.S. gallon oil drums or even livestock. This particular airplane
reportedly sat in a barn in Wisconsin for more than 20 years before
being discovered and restored. Being a "local" airplane, it has
made multiple trips to Oshkosh over the years.
Over in the classic airplane area is a long row of pre-1950
Ercoupes, a distinctive two-place airplane with a two vertical
stabilizers. The owner of this 1946 model was more than happy to
spend some time with us to describe his airplane. Something of the
LSA of its day, this Ercoupe has a polished aluminum fuselage but
fabric covered wings. This makes the airplane lighter, faster, and
more fuel efficient than the all-metal examples on the line. The
fuel system operates from a single fuel pump which moves gas from
wing tanks into a center reservoir which gravity-feeds the
carburetor. A simple float-and-wire fuel gauge on the cowling lets
the pilot know when fuel is running low. If the wire starts go go
down, all the fuel from the wing tanks has been used, and the pilot
has about an hour to find a suitable landing site. Likewise, in the
event of a fuel pump failure, there is about an hour's worth of
fuel in the center tank before things get really critical.
There is a lot to celebrate this year at AirVenture. The flying
machines range from the most basic ultralight to Boeing's newest
airliner, which will be here Friday. There are achievements to
celebrate as well, such as the 100th anniversary of Naval Aviation.
But a lot of what is Oshkosh is the people. In an hour spent
roaming the grounds, we talked with representatives from companies
working on electric propulsion systems, proud airplane owners, and
regular folks who have come to a place many consider to be hallowed
ground. Come to AirVenture for the airplanes, the avionics, the
"gee whiz" that surrounds so much of aviation these days.
But stay for the people.