August 3, 2014 - Remember only seven days ago, when the One Week Wonder was merely a collection of parts in a crate, flying in close formation with thousands of hopes and dreams? Or when the Vintage area had yet to accept its classics? What about the Warbirds area, where the competing shriek of turbojets and rumble of radials hadn’t been heard for a year? When the only things flying at the Seaplane Base had beaks and feathers?
All that changed, of course, replaced by literally thousands of aircraft, representing every conceivable configuration, color, and condition. Thousands of people have strolled, gawked, craned their heads skyward, and been wowed. Hundreds of vendors have exhausted themselves, their wares, and their business cards. Even the weather cooperated, sort of.
All these things—and much more—happened in a single week. And, it’s not over yet: Even as you read this and as campsites are broken down and tie-down stakes are pulled, visitors are streaming onto the grounds for the afternoon air show and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds’ final program of the event.
It’s too early to tally up the numbers, but it’s not too late to sum up the week, to ask the “what-it-all-means” questions, or to share EAA Chairman Jack J. Pelton’s thoughts. And it’s not too early to think about next year.
“I couldn’t be more pleased,” Pelton told AirVenture Today. “We’ve had one very full week, with lots of forums and lots of exciting things going on, lots of great air shows, but lots of good stuff on the ground for people to see, and educational sessions.
“I think the exhibitors are pleased—they said they had more traffic and more sales than they’ve seen on a Monday in a long time,” he added.
One metric by which to measure each year at AirVenture—and perhaps one of the most important to the pilots who fly in each year—is the number of arriving airplanes. This year was one of the best in recent memory, according to Pelton.
“We had an exciting milestone on Tuesday, when GA parking was filled. You hate to turn anybody away, but it’s a nice problem to have. It says things are recovering.”
“But the most exciting part has been the One Week Wonder,” he allowed. “Just being a part of that, taking the cover off and seeing the huge crowds that were there” was one of the show’s highlights for EAA’s chairman.
What does Pelton think about the 2014 edition of AirVenture? How good was it?
“I think it’s clearly got to be one of the landmark events,” in EAA’s history, he said. “And we’ve had some great ones, going back to when the Concorde was here, and other things. But bringing the Thunderbirds for the first time, and the crowds we’ve had,” will make 2014’s AirVenture a contender, he told us.
Among Pelton’s special memories this week is the way in which association Founder Paul H. Poberezny’s passing last year, shortly after AirVenture 2013 concluded, was remembered by attendees. Several events and displays during AirVenture 2014 were dedicated to his legacy.
Perhaps the most well-attended was Sunday’s dedication of a plaque honoring him on EAA’s Memorial Wall. “Having that and having people not turn it into a downer, being excited about the way it was and having that family culture…there’s just a lot of people feeling good about EAA,” Pelton thoughtfully added.
But when Pelton looks out his office window in February, and then he looks at the site today, what goes through his mind?
“The first thing…is the volunteers—I hope we’re treating them properly, and they all come back and show up. That’s how it gets done…it’s the whole core and backbone of this,” he added. “Without them, this whole thing just would not get done.”
But as good as AirVenture 2014 was—and is—Pelton isn’t the least bit content to let its success be the high-water mark. He and EAA’s staff already are thinking about 2015.
“Next year, there’s a few things we’re hoping to bring back, the most significant of which is Burt Rutan,” Pelton told us. “He’s got some things in the works he’s not willing to talk about, but he’s saying, ‘Jack, I want to be there next year.’ He told me, point-blank, in an e-mail, ‘I have my own projects that very much need to be unveiled at EAA.’”
And that brings us back to considering how the AirVenture grounds are transformed each year and how special the results become. What words does EAA’s chairman use to describe that transformation, and the results?
“Pure magic,” he told us.
Who are we to argue?
See you next year, for AirVenture, July 20-26, 2015.