In part one of this interview with Dick Knapinski of EAA Media Relations, we looked at how Team EAA de-briefs each year's Airventure, and how despite setting the bar high for last summer's show, and despite a rough economy, Airventure enjoyed higher-than-expected attendance. In part two below, Knapinski – aka @EAAUpdate in Twitter – discusses some of the things you didn't know about from last year's show, and what might be coming this summer to KOSH:
World of Flying: What projects are you working on for 2010 AirVenture that is going to whip AirVenture fans into a frenzy?
Dick Knapinski: Some of it we’re seeing already. The reaction to the Cherokee 50th anniversary, the 75th anniversary of the DC-3 and the B-17 and other events is already building in many areas, such as aviation discussion boards and so forth. Along with all that, suffice it to say that there will be things you’ve never seen before and things that you never thought you’d see again.
WoF: Tell us one thing great that happens in your office each year at AirVenture that makes you especially glad you have the job you do.
DK: Perhaps the most gratifying things that occur on a yearly basis are those comments and notes we receive from people that find their expectations are exceeded. Comments like, “I knew Oshkosh was big, but it was more than I ever imagined”; “My dad and I came, and Dad had the time of his life seeing the warbirds he repaired back in the war”; or “My kids are now total aviation junkies after two days at KidVenture.” Those type of comments make you realize that what you’re doing is bigger than an individual or an air show, because you’ve created a deeply personal memory for someone. And then there are the volunteers, both in our media area and throughout the grounds. I can’t say enough about what they do to make the event special. A successful event is very personal to them and it shows.
WoF: Tell us one horror story that always happens at every AirVenture, some bad situation you know is coming but you are not sure when...and what plans you have in place to solve this situation in 2010.
DK: There are always plenty. On an annual level, you always want the event to be safe. An accident is not only a disruption, but it’s a tragedy that must be addressed on several levels. Bad weather in Wisconsin in late July is always a threat, so plenty of time is spent planning for emergencies and making sure people and aircraft are protected as best as humanly possible. Then there are logistics issues – with something this large, they will occur, but you just don’t know where. For instance, the growing use of wireless internet and smartphones (who would’ve thought of THAT 20 years ago?) means creating infrastructure for people who may travel with only their airplane, a tent and their laptop. The effort in 2009 was not totally up to our expectations and we’re working on that for 2010.
WoF: Describe the level of excitement in Air venture’s Media operation leading up to the show, right up to opening day. Also, what is your work schedule like during the show, do you get to sleep much?
DK: In high school and college, I was involved in both sports and music. Anyone involved in either of those pursuits knows the nervous energy building up before the big game or the big performance. You hope you’re well prepared, you’ve been getting ready, but you can’t wait for things to get started because this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. When I drive over the Highway 41/44 interchange in the morning and see the North 40 filled with airplanes, I’ve told myself on more than one occasion, “OK, it’s game time. Let’s go.”
To answer your question; no, I don’t sleep much. But neither do a lot of other people, from our maintenance staff and security to many of the volunteer chairpeople. Personally, I’m typically on the grounds by about 4:30 am because the TV trucks arrive for the morning shows. The airport closes to traffic at 8 pm each day, and I usually don’t get off the grounds until 10 pm at the earliest for either work reasons or because I have aviation friends I want to see, too.
WoF: Tell us a really juicy behind-the-scenes story about AirVenture that the general public will be blown away to discover.
DK: Boy that’s tough, since there are so many stories that take place each year when you’re in the middle of the maelstrom. There are the fun things, where you might run into Harrison Ford or NASCAR owner Jack Roush among the exhibits, shopping for airplane gadgets, and people just let them be as a fellow aviator. Just a couple of examples from 2009: We had a movie company arrive on the grounds to shoot for two days. They were doing background shots for a major aviation-themed movie that’s due for release in 2012. They arrived on the Thursday during the event with 33 people, seven vehicles, a helicopter with a camera pod, a catering tent, and a 28-foot boom arm for aerial filming. The challenge was allowing them to get their shots with minimum disruption for everyone else who was here to enjoy the show, as it is a live event and not a movie set. The film crew planned for three days of shooting but got everything done in two because it went so well.
The other was the “race” between an aerobatic airplane and Paul Teutul of the American Choppers TV show. Longtime EAA member Ron Fagen had invited Paul to visit Oshkosh and participate. When the TV show production staff started doing research on AirVenture a day or two into the show, they suddenly realized that “Hey, this is a pretty big event!” and decided to do some show taping here. That meant clearing additional media people, approving camera positions with FAA, securing transportation and everything else for less than four hours of shooting – AND not disrupting the air show for everyone watching.
Those are the short stories. A couple of others are two-beer tales…
WoF: I believe the DC-3/C-47 mass arrival event will be a major draw in attendance this year. What do you predict will happen to attendance on Opening Day, Monday, July 26th, 2010 when this formation is due overhead at KOSH?
DK: Opening day could be spectacular in 2010. With all the early mass arrivals, the expected arrival of the Oshkosh Express 747 from Australia and New Zealand that day, an opening-day concert once again, PLUS an aerial arrival of DC-3s never before seen at any aviation show, and well…let’s just say it could be very big. There are tens of thousands of people on the grounds on opening day regardless, and if the weather’s good, who knows what kind of once-in-a-lifetime day could occur. All I know as an airplane person, I sure wouldn’t want to miss it.