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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014 - Warbirds After-Action Report
By Bill Fischer, Executive Director – EAA Warbirds of America
I seem to say this every year – “Boy, did that week go fast!” – and 2014 was no different. By all accounts, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh was another booming success! This year’s top billing went to the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. After much planning and coordination with local residents and businesses, the Thunderbirds, EAA, and FAA were able to work out the aerobatic box and perform as a full team for the very first time in front of the Oshkosh crowds.
In the Warbirds area, total aircraft attendance topped out at 304. That’s down about 40 aircraft over the past few years. However, the variety and quality of restored warbirds continued to be outstanding. This year commemorated the 100th anniversary of WWI aviation, and a number of scale replica aircraft participated. Dorian Walker brought his Curtiss Jenny which gathered much interest in the Training Command area. Parked next door to Dorian’s Jenny was Bob Baker and his Curtiss Jenny project. It was an interesting display where our members and guests could see the “before and after.” We look forward to seeing Bob’s finished project – so far, so good!
Another highlight was a display featuring three P-38 Lightnings on Warbird Alley. Glacier Girl, Marge, and Ruff Stuff were lined up early in the week, making for a great photo opportunity.
One of the rarest warbirds in attendance this year was the Fairey Gannet. This one-of-a-kind former Royal Navy aircraft impressed the crowd with its unique wing-folding demonstration. Look for an upcoming article in Warbirds magazine.
The Warbirds in Review program was another highlight. This year a JumboTron was added to the venue, providing interesting content between shows and supporting the interviews of pilots and veterans. Of the 12 sessions held, I would venture to say that almost all were filled to capacity. As always, the Bob Hoover and C. E. “Bud” Anderson presentations were standing room only. Hats off to Bob and Bud for supporting the program for many years.
Sleeping Dog TV recorded the sessions from several different camera angles and plan to produce a series of television programs. If it all pans out, we’ll keep you posted as to future broadcasts.
The warbirds aerial demonstrations were as popular as ever. Monday featured the formation group mass arrivals. Tuesday showcased all types from L-Birds to classic jets. On Wednesday, the programming throughout the day was a tribute to the Vietnam era. The air show featured a great demonstration by the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation Sky Soldiers, which brought a pair of UH-1 Hueys and an outstanding AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter. In addition, Vietnam-era aircraft such as the Skyraider, Loach, Birddog, Skyhawk, and Mohawk all made spectacular passes in front of the crowd.
The Thursday warbirds show highlighted the classic jets. Featured were the MiG, F-86, Fury, L-39s, and a very nice four-ship formation of T-33s.
The Friday air show was shaping up to be another warbird extravaganza with all types ready to go. The T-28s launched and got started; however, shortly after, the weather conditions deteriorated and the balance of the warbirds had to stand down. The T-28s safely recovered and the rest of the show was delayed for a time. Late in the afternoon, the Thunderbirds were able to perform before the eager Oshkosh crowd.
When the Thunderbirds concluded, the American Airlines jet arrived, bringing home Vietnam veterans from their Yellow Ribbon Honor Flight tour of Washington, D.C. It was a spectacular arrival and welcome home ceremony. Thousands of spectators and family members filled Boeing Plaza to capacity as they greeted the veterans.
Helping to welcome home the veterans was Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, a California-based swing orchestra whose upbeat style kept the crowd dancing all evening. This ever-popular Friday evening concert was sponsored by EAA Warbirds of America and the Disabled American Veterans.
The Saturday air show featured all types of warbirds, and again, the Thunderbirds closed out the show. That evening the Warbirds Awards Banquet was held in the EAA AirVenture Museum’s Eagle Hangar. Volunteers were recognized for their years of service to the organization, and aircraft owners and restorers were given awards for their outstanding work.
Charlie Cartledge of Wadsworth, Ohio, was awarded Grand Champion WWII for his General Motors TBM-3E Avenger. The Gold Wrench Award also went to Cartledge. TFH Aviation of Naperville, Illinois, garnered the Grand Champion Post-WWII award with its Aero Vodochody L-39C. The Gold Wrench was awarded to Pride Aircraft of Rockford, Illinois.
On Sunday, most of our members packed up and got started for home. It was another fun-filled convention with lots of memories and new friendships made. On behalf of EAA Warbirds of America and the Board of Directors, I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of our hard-working volunteers, pilots, and crewmembers. You all helped to make EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014 a special event. We hope to see you again next year.
Keep ’em flying!