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Tue, Jul 31, 2012

Oshkosh Attendance Down Approximately 40 Thousand Compared To 2011

Members Express Concerns About Premium Chalets On The Flightline

EAA president and CEO Rod Hightower was upbeat in his closing news conference Sunday at Wittman Regional Airport, but there is some growing dissension among the rank-and-file members of the EAA about the direction the event, and the organization, is going.

While official numbers have not yet been released, Hightower said at the news conference that he thinks the overall attendance will be north of 500,000 for the week, but that it will be down from the 541,000 which came through the gates in 2011. But Hightower also said that the advanced ticket sales were up, the main camping area saw an increase of 10 percent in population, and many vendors reported record-breaking sales.

Hightower called the week "outstanding," and said "Despite the struggles in the overall economy, the aviation community knows Oshkosh is the place to be for finding out what's new and available in aviation, but for buying your goods and services you might need in the upcoming year."

The Oshkosh Northwestern newspaper reports that there was some dissention among the rank-and-file members of the EAA, with about 150 people attending the annual meeting on Saturday. The normal number is about 50, and most of those are members of the EAA board. One member from Plainfield, IN, said that he is concerned that there will be a loss of the culture of experimental and homebuilt airplanes that were the seed from which Oshkosh grew. Dave Clark said that he is taking away the impression that EAA doesn't care about its chapters or volunteers.

Much of the concern was about the premium chalets that were set up just north of Phillips 66 Plaza on the flightline ... prime airshow viewing real estate. While one member said at the annual meeting that "nothing says you're not welcome like a white picket fence," Hightower said that the chalets had sold out far in advance of the event ... providing much-needed revenue. But during the news conference Sunday, he admitted that the execution of the chalet concept "wasn't perfect," and that they would be re-addressed for next year.

Hightower also said that he understands that the membership expects transparency from the board and management, and promised to "share information more visibly and vocally," according to the Northwestern.

Others writing on a Facebook page titled "Members4Members" are also concerned that the EAA is losing its focus. The page was established by a group of EAA members seeking direct election of the organizations board of directors. At least one posted a comment saying there should be a change in leadership at the top of the organization.

FMI: www.eaa.org

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