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Higher Education: AirVenture’s Workshops and Forums
By James Wynbrandt
July 23, 2017 - World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration, yes, but EAA AirVenture Oshkosh doubles as perhaps aviation’s greatest educational institution through the hands-on aircraft-building workshops and forum presentations that go on here all week long.
The Builders Education Center oversees the daily schedule of homebuilders instruction at the Workshops Plaza, providing hands-on training in aircraft construction techniques, including sheet metal work, fabric covering, TIG welding, gas welding, wood, composite, wiring, and all of the other skills required to build an airplane. “Last year, through our workshops and presentation area and classrooms, we had over 9,000 people that went through the venues,” said Builders Education Center Chairman Wayne Ray of Evansville, Indiana.
For some attendees — especially those currently building an airplane — the expert instruction is the fly-in’s primary attraction, but many others stumble upon the workshops while exploring AirVenture. No reservations are required, and all equipment and tools are supplied free of charge, donated by manufacturers. “You have farmers, engineers, doctors, lawyers — it runs the gamut,” said Builders Education Center Co-chairman Carl Franz of Pinckney, Michigan, and that includes women as well as men. “Some of the best riveters I’ve seen have been women,” Carl said, adding, “Sometimes a young man at 16 is able to do top-notch work.”
The center has about 60 volunteer instructors, several from overseas, and all have extensive homebuilding experience. Many are also A&Ps, technical counselors, or have other expertise they’re eager to share. Wayne, for example, initially volunteered after he was inspired at Oshkosh to build his own airplane. “I wanted to give back what I was given,” he said. This Friday Wayne will be honored at the Brown Arch for his 21 years of service as committee chairman. The center is always looking for more volunteers with required technical qualifications and experience.
Meanwhile the Forums Plaza, adjacent to the Workshops Plaza, will host more than 400 presentations in the nine forum pavilions over the next seven days, giving attendees “a chance to meet person to person” with aviation innovators, experts, and luminaries, said Drew Gillette, of Laconia, New Hampshire. After volunteering for a few years at AirVenture, Drew gravitated toward helping at the forums, “Because that’s where you can learn a lot and not get too sunburned,” he said.
The range of topics covered is vast. For example, you’ll find forums on aerial photography, mountain flying, RC modeling, designing paint schemes, supersonic aircraft, drone operations and scores, and many more. This year, notable aviators leading forums include maintenance guru Mike Busch, NASA’s Dr. Bruce Holmes, and NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart. Check out the forums schedule located in the center of AirVenture Today to see what you can learn and be fascinated by today.