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Welcome to Paradise at the ‘Other’ AirVenture
EAA Seaplane Base: The ‘Other’ AirVenture
By Barbara A. Schmitz
Welcome to the “other” AirVenture grounds, the one that is less crowded and more peaceful. Welcome to paradise, otherwise known as the EAA Seaplane Base.
While it is smaller than the regular air show and convention grounds, the Seaplane Base offers many of the same amenities and items you’ll find at Wittman Regional Airport: airplanes — albeit moored on Lake Winnebago, concessions, picnic tables, first aid, camping, musicians, exhibitors, and presentations. But it also offers more, including a cooling lakeside breeze, nighttime campfires, free pontoon boat tours of the harbor, and this year, a chance to see the Martin Mars up close.
As of Wednesday, 80 seaplanes and amphibians were already registered, well above the number compared to recent conventions, said Mary Leahy, Seaplane Base co-chairwoman.
The number of people visiting the base is also up, likely because of the Martin Mars, the world’s largest flying-boat water bomber, Leahy said.
Tim Klade, of Poynette, Wisconsin, and Kevin Kopp, of Pardeeville, Wisconsin, said they came to the Seaplane Base on Wednesday, in part to see the Martin Mars. It was the first visit there for both, even though they had attended AirVenture for many years.
“I always plan to come to the Seaplane Base, but it seems like you look at this and you look at that, and then the day is gone,” Klade said. But this year, he made it a priority. “It’s so peaceful here that if I had a hammock, I could take a nap right now.”
Klade and Kopp sat on a bench watching as waves gently bobbed the massive water bomber up and down. “You have to take this in while you can,” Klade said.
The Seaplane Base wasn’t a stranger to Don Williams, of Erie, Pennsylvania. He’s been flying since 1968 and has logged 4,500 hours, including 3,000 hours in seaplanes. He was volunteering in the Seaplane Pilots Association booth for the first time this year, but he’s been coming to the base for years.
“It’s just a more relaxed atmosphere,” he said, “plus this is where the seaplanes are.”
Williams said the highlight for him so far has been taking the Martin Mars tour. “That’s been on my bucket list as a seaplane pilot,” he said. “I was interested in seeing the cockpit, and learning how they pick up and disperse the water and how they control the airplane during those operations.”
Ryan Karschnick, from Lakeland, Florida, also got to see the water bomber up close when he wasn’t working the Seaplane Pilots Association booth. Although this is the first time he’s been to AirVenture, he said he’s enjoyed the slower pace and cooler temperatures at the Seaplane Base. “Plus, it doesn’t get more beautiful than this view.”
Tim and JoAnne Morton, of Louisville, Kentucky, are also repeat visitors to the Seaplane Base. They came this year to shows friends why the area is so special, as the group sat along the shore and watched the Martin Mars as it readied for takeoff.
“It’s a great place to get out of the sun for a while,” JoAnne said. “Plus I really appreciate all the volunteers’ efforts to make it so beautiful. It’s just another world out here.”