By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor
(OSHKOSH, WI) As I depart today from EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, waiting for the shuttle back to KATW, it gives me time to reflect on this past most wonderful week. It has been one filled to overflowing with everything that makes this trip mandatory for me each year - good friends, great airplanes, and the joy that comes from participating in the World's Largest Aviation Celebration.
From the first hours at the show when I had to almost push through exhibit halls crammed with people buying expensive avionics, to the last bus ride from the dorms when I got to chat with one of the pilots who flew the 34-plane formation flight to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Van's RV-6, this has been a week filled with more positive signs than I have witnessed here in several years.
It seemed that everywhere I looked, things were bigger, shinier, and more exciting. Lines at every concession stand pointed to a higher gate, which will make EAA very happy. I will be surprised if they do not set new attendance records at #OSH16. Walking the show each day, I'd stumble on yet another new vendor that I had never heard of, who spent lavishly to set up gigantic outside exhibit areas. Square footage does not come cheap at AirVenture, so to set up a 60 X 90 outside with massive display, air-conditioned sales building, dancing elephants to draw people in can and people to staff it for a full week can easily approach six figures. For a little-known foreign LSA maker to decide to bring their road show to Oshkosh says something about their current and future optimism. Whether they sign contracts here remains to be seen, but with the crowds here, it seems logical to think a few people now own new flying machines.
With every tick of the clock, it seemed another manufacturer, association or Federal agency was announcing something new that would benefit GA. The third-class medical reform that AOPA and EAA worked to push through Washington and Oklahoma City is a big deal and everyone was talking about it. There are also new models of airplanes that are creating chatter, and the many developments in avionics announced here are almost too much to track.
But at it's core, this is the aviation family's annual reunion, and this year, Oshkosh did not disappoint. There was an #avgeeks party or two every night and it provided great opportunities to spend quality time chatting up everyone I know from this world. It is so cool that so many juggle personal and work schedules to make this show, just to hang out together, drink Spotted Cows and devour anything that is even a distant relative to bacon.
If GA is indeed dying, nobody was writing that obituary here at Oshkosh. A good online friend, Matthew Gjedde, summed it up well in a Twitter post when he said "this was the best Oshkosh EVER!" But he also has said that when leaving every Oshkosh he's visited, exactly as I have done. This shared #avgeek DNA is what makes this such an incredible trip for me, because for four days and nights, I got to immerse myself in a community - no, a family - that are all of extremely like minds.
And that, my flying friends, is what makes Oshkosh...Oshkosh.