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AirVenture Cup Race Brings Pre-Show Excitement

Erin Henze

EAA
EAA

For the past 24 years, the AirVenture Cup Race has provided an opportunity for pilots to compete on their way to AirVenture. Modeled after the Bendix Trophy Races of the 1930s, this cross-country flying race is what many consider the start of AirVenture.

“It’s a unique experience in that, other than being an air show performer, it’s the only way to participate by actually flying your airplane,” said Eric Whyte, EAA Lifetime 357260, chairman and co-founder of the AirVenture Cup Race. Most people, when you fly into Oshkosh, you fly in and park, so the race allows you to do something as a pilot and have a lot of fun.”

This year the race started and ended at the Wausau Downtown Airport (KAUW) in Wisconsin, but that hasn’t always been the case.

“In 1998 … it started off as uniting Kitty Hawk with Oshkosh,” Eric said. Working at EAA at the time, Eric and some coworkers had a pitch for then-president Tom Poberezny. “Why not do a race between Kitty Hawk and Oshkosh, and unite the two cities as part of this celebration of the hundredth anniversary of flight? The original plan was to go until 2003, but it was popular with the participants, so it just kept going.”

Though the locations have changed throughout the years, the fun has not.

“We moved it to Dayton and then to South Dakota and then to Illinois,” Eric said. “We have been using Wausau as the finish line for a number of years. … The airport manager and the EAA chapter asked us if we would ever consider hosting the starting line there, and the finish line, just to try it. We did it last year … and the participants loved it. It was a lot of fun.”

This year, the annual event started at 9 a.m. in Wausau, with 71 airplanes joining in the race. Times ranged from one hour and 27 minutes to over four hours, but, despite being a race, speed wasn’t always the goal.

“We have a huge variety of airplanes, from jets to Piper Cubs,” Eric said. “The jets obviously are really fast, but the slower airplanes take all day. I’ve always said, ‘It’s not how fast you go, it’s how much fun you have along the way.’”

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Race participants and information on the AirVenture Cup Race can be found in the racing section off of Boeing Plaza. With next year being the 25th anniversary of the race, Eric is proud to bring AirVenture to those around the U.S.

“One of the things about the event is, it allows some local volunteers, especially when we were in Kitty Hawk or South Dakota, there was a way to participate in AirVenture without being in Oshkosh,” Eric said. “It’s a grassroots traveling road show, if you will. Take a little piece of AirVenture out to share it with people.”

For the results of the 2022 AirVenture Cup Race, see the Wednesday, July 27, issue of AirVenture Today.

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