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Canadian warbirds

Building a wood rib

First Officer Jeff Skiles and Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger

EAA President Tom Poberezny

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2009: What a week!

Hundreds of thousands of people from 75 countries enjoyed the greatest aviation event in the world July 27-August 2 at Oshkosh. Being there to experience it from start to finish, all I can say is, “What an incredible event it was!”

Total attendance was 578,000, a 12 percent increase over last year. Aircraft parking and camping in the ‘north 40’ was filled up for a period of time on Monday and Tuesday and aircraft were routed elsewhere until space once again became available. Camp Scholler was filled early in the week and had to be extended twice to accommodate drive-in campers! All told, 41,000 overnight campers in aircraft and drive-in camping areas attended.

More than 10,000 airplanes made the trip to Oshkosh. The high-profile planes like the massive Airbus A380, WhiteKnightTwo, and the Erickson Aircrane Elvis drew deserved attention, but many of the Canadian aircraft on display were also well received, including the Lancaster Bomber, Westland Lysander, Corsair, P-40 Warhawk, and Ed and Kathy Lubitz’ Silver Dart replica.

The International Visitors Tent, celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, registered 2,182 guests from 75 nations. Once again Canada led the way with more than 700 registrations, an increase of 25 percent over last year, thanks in part to our centennial of powered flight celebration. More than 300 people attended the special performance of Billy Bishop Goes to War, conducted in honor of our flight centennial.

Workshops welcomed more than 8,000 ‘wanna-be’ homebuilders to try their hand at building a wood rib, welding, fabric covering, composite construction, and sheet metal work. KidVenture hosted more than 25,000 people of all ages.

Comedian Jeff Dunham, appearing courtesy of RotorWay International, drew an overflow audience estimated at 15,000 thousand people. Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger and First Officer Jeff Skiles of the “Miracle on the Hudson” Flight 1549 also drew overflow audiences throughout the week. Thousands of fans ignored the rain and listened to the music of The Doobie Brothers, presented by Ford Motor Company at AeroShell Square.

EAA President Tom Poberezny in his closing remarks called AirVenture 2009 the “best ever.” He continued:

“While it’s easy to throw out the ‘best ever’ phrase each year until it has no meaning, I truly believe that this year would qualify for a number of reasons. First, the event was a very safe one, with only minor aircraft and grounds incidents and no major injuries. In addition, we had mentioned prior to the event that the lineup of aircraft, people and programs was the best and deepest we’ve ever had at Oshkosh, and that proved to be true. We were optimistic when early numbers showed increases in advance ticket sales and camping registration, but what happened during those seven days at Oshkosh exceeded all expectations.

“Nearly all of the challenges we faced during the week were ones caused by high demand from larger than expected crowds. AirVenture 2009 was vital for the entire aviation community, as it provided a non-governmental ‘stimulus package’ for both aviation business and attitudes.”

It was quite a week, one that created countless lifelong memories for those who were fortunate enough to attend. Including yours truly.

- Jack Dueck, Editor

Note: Jack was honored with an EAA President’s Award during AirVenture for his volunteerism on behalf of Canadian members. Read more about it on the AirVenture website.

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