August 3, 2014 - EAA Chairman Jack J. Pelton told reporters Sunday at his convention-closing press appearance that when the numbers are all in, the 2014 edition of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh would be among the best conventions of all time. Attendance, the number of airplanes, exhibitors’ reactions and enthusiasm – all are trending up significantly.
“Overall attendance was up,” he said. “As you can imagine, on certain days it was way up.” Saturday for example, attendance rose more than 20 percent above last year. “We’re also getting very strong feedback from the [more than 800] exhibitors in terms of sales and activities. Aviation people were here and they were here to buy.”
Aircraft arrival numbers were up significantly from a year ago. As of Sunday morning, there were more than 1,000 additional registered aircraft in Oshkosh over last year. On Tuesday, the field at Wittman Regional Airport was full for aircraft parking. “That was the first time in a long time aircraft parking was full,” Pelton commented.
The One Week Wonder project has been nothing short of outstanding, with volunteers and attendee activity centered on the project exhibit throughout the week.
The first-ever U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds appearance clearly provided a big shot in the arm especially on Saturday, when the weather also cooperated. And on Sunday morning, there were twice as many cars already in the parking lot than final Sunday last year.
Pelton said his only true disappointment came from the FAA regarding progress on doing away with the third-class medical certificate for recreational flying.
“We were pleased FAA Administrator Michael Huerta was here, but we were hoping to get more definition around the third-class medical proposal,” Pelton said. “We had high expectations for more news than what we got. The FAA internally has made a decision to move forward, and that is but one step out of many steps toward a final ruling.”
EAA will continue to push the legislative track, which was outlined by U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Indiana) in the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act (H.R.3708) early in the week. The next big barometer is September 2015 and FAA reauthorization. “Will GA be left out? I’m really concerned about that,” Pelton said.
Looking ahead to 2015 (July 20-26):
- Pelton alluded to an appearance by Burt Rutan. “He has some things he’d like to show the EAA members”
- A Wichita, Kansas-based group intends to fly the B-29 bomber Doc soon and bring it to Oshkosh 2015, along with the expected appearance of the Commemorative Air Force’s FIFI – “Won’t that be something to see!”
- An expected appearance of Goodyear’s newest airship – “It’s a Zeppelin,” Pelton said.
- Other expectations are for increased presence of electric-powered airplanes and those companies looking at advances in innovation and technology in that area.
Pelton closed with a major shout-out to EAA volunteers. “We had more than 5,400 volunteers this year,” he said. “Last year we had less that 5,000, so we’re happy that we’re seeing volunteers return to the convention, because they are what make all this possible.”
The show got off to an unfortunate start with a fatal accident Monday, and Pelton gave his condolences to the families who were affected.