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AirVenture Arrival Discussion

December 2018 - If you attended EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018, you are no doubt aware that marginal weather early in the week caused a temporary logjam of arrivals. The good news, of course, is that everyone arrived safely. The not so happy story is that combining the normal high rate of early-in-the-week arrivals with the pent-up demand created by Saturday and Sunday arriving aircraft having to land and wait out some very marginal VFR and even intermittent IFR conditions overloaded both ATC and EAA’s ground operations ability to get everyone in, in an orderly fashion.

AirVenture truly is a victim of its own success with recent years offering record attendance stats. YouTube and many message forums are full of videos and self-appointed pundits critiquing “what needs to be done” to avoid a recurrence at some time in the future. Some comments make sense; others are based on what may be a poor understanding of the big picture and the factors that need to be considered in creating a long-term, safe, and efficient solution to the increasingly higher demands of more traffic. There’s always a need to understand and mitigate the unintended consequences that may result from major changes to a system, which after all, has served pretty well for four decades.

EAA’s Vice President of Advocacy and Safety Sean Elliott quickly convened a working group composed of a broad spectrum of stakeholders including EAA staff and volunteers, and representatives from aircraft groups and the FAA to dissect the challenges that have arisen and to study and implement improvements in a sensible, controlled fashion.

The work group’s recommendations have evolved to a few primary categories, (1) arrival procedures (FAA), (2) ground process improvements (EAA), and (3) joint actions to provide overall improvement (FAA, EAA, and pilots). In the December edition of Sport Aviation magazine, EAA Vice Chairman of the Board Charlie Precourt offered a detailed outline of recommendations and the status of many of them. EAA’s website has a similar news item.

I want to call special attention to the third category — “joint actions.” We as leadership members of type clubs can and must play a critical role here. As the details of the in-the-air and on-the-ground operations evolve to improve safety and capacity, we most certainly will face changes to existing procedures, such as revisions to the NOTAM and changes in the parking areas. EAA plans to create new materials to complement the NOTAM, and type clubs are at least one channel to help get the word out to members who attend the event.

It’s no secret that pilots’ adherence to the NOTAM is, well, spotty, to be kind. We type clubs, along with EAA chapters, have an opportunity, no, an obligation to push the word out to our groups and to set reasonable expectations of professionalism among them. Peer pressure works. I challenge you to consider avenues to socialize the intent and to school members on the new items, whether by newsletter, meetings, briefings, or other appropriate means. I am confident that we will have new information to share well in advance of AirVenture 2019 and can only hope that we can share some creative approaches among our TCC group.

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