#OSH19 (AirVenture) Show Grounds Quick Reference Guide

3:52 PM

By Dan Pimentel,

Airplanista Blog Editor

For those of us who have been lucky enough to attend EAA AirVenture Oshkosh – O.K., just call it “Oshkosh” – we know the grounds well. Every step we’ve taken is permanently etched into our brains, and most of us could walk from Vintage to Warbirds blindfolded. But for those who are attending #OSH19 for the first time, or like my partner-in-crime this year, Derek Thomas (@derekwthomas on Twitter), for those who have not been to the World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration® in years, the show grounds will blow you away by its enormity.
With this in mind, I thought now would be a great time to give these #OSH19 attendees a quick reference guide to the show grounds, gleaned from my knowledge of trudging this incredible show almost every year since 2003. This is, of course, presented Airplanista style, so if you want to get real and accurate information, visit and bookmark https://www.eaa.org/en/airventure.
Please refer to the lead photo in this post – or view larger in this PDF – to play along…enjoy:

1.  Camp Bacon – This is the epicenter of the #avgeek universe at the show. Best way to find it is to follow the main access road that goes along the west side of the front gates south past the Red Barn Store and look for a bunch of happy tech-savvy people charging their devices, editing video and generally having more fun than everyone else. Pro tip: Evenings are active at Camp Bacon, the campfire is going and some of the nicest people at Oshkosh are engaged in spirited conversation about tech, airplanes, food and, yes, more tech. Be advised that you may not understand what 50% of the people here do for a living as it involves “working with computers” so just accept it and smile when they say they “code.”

2. Paul’s Woods – This is the primo campground on the field. If you get a spot here, you’ve won the camping lottery, and must be well-connected to the many legacy families that have been camping here for decades. Pro tip: Look for the “Coffin Cooler” full of assorted adult beverages.

3. The Outback – This far corner of the North 40 parking/camping area is where people end up when they arrive late. When you drive in to the show grounds from the north, you see them up against the fence, and have to wonder what their show experience is like when they have to walk 650 miles any time they want to do anything. Pro tip: But do not worry, EAA has them covered with frequent school bus service back to civilization.

4. The Secret Place – This might be the most beautiful part of the show grounds you have never seen. It is located by the EAA Air Academy building, just east of Pioneer Airport. Lush, shady and gorgeous, a stroll over there during the hottest part of the day may be a good thing. Pro tip: The OSH city busses from the dorms drive by this as they enter the grounds, and every time I say I’m going to walk over there and never do.

5. Runway 9/27 – While so much of the show’s activity is focused on the larger runway 18/36, there is always a lot of yummy #avgeek goodness happening on this smaller east/west runway. As you move around the show, keep an eye over there, you never know what is going to blast off. Pro tip: Go to Ardy and Ed’s Drive-in, sit on the patio and you’ll be right under the final approach to runway 27. Makes the burgers, fries and Black Cows taste better when some exotic homebuilt, exquisite vintage aircraft or business jet flies by overhead.

6. A Sea of RVs – Sure there are other makes and models than the line of great experimentals from Van’s Aircraft found in the Experimental parking areas, but you have to work to find them mixed in with hundreds of RVs of every shape, size and color. Pro tip: If you want to learn about tying down an airplane so that it can withstand anything the wild summer weather in Wisconsin can throw at it, stroll this parking area and see how the pros do it.

7. Boeing Plaza – This is the heart of the show, where all the heavy iron resides. It’s where the Monday night opening concert is held, and where the big airplanes from Boeing (and yes, cough, cough…Airbus) are on display when they fly in. You will also find all the military planes here, but careful, do not touch, those badass guards in uniform carrying major firearms have zero sense of humor if you try to lick an F-35. It is hard to walk from A to B at #OSH19 without passing through this central point of the show grounds several times. Pro tip: This used to be Aeroshell Square, but no matter what sponsor cut a really big check to EAA for naming rights, this is ground zero at AirVenture. Last year, Boeing had a very cool exhibitor tent on the west side of the Plaza with flight simulators set up, but the lines were often out the door. Get there right when they open for any chance of flying one.

8. Endless Exhibitor Booths – This is the area of the show that newbies see for the first time and are blown away. Every step you take delivers another great aircraft manufacturer showing off their latest and greatest models in the outdoor “booths.” Inside the four giant exhibition hangars are every kind of aftermarket product you can ever imagine owning. Pro tip: These four halls get packed all day, sometimes so much so it is hard to even walk through them. And the sellers of the hottest products (hello ForeFlight) see three-deep crowds waiting for their chance to squeeze through the crowd to see and buy the “must have” goods. Also, gigantic booths – OK, they are really actual stores – from sellers like Aircraft Spruce and Specialty bring their entire catalog to the show, or so it seems. If you really want to spend quality time with reps from these sellers, get there in the AM right when the doors open (see EAA site for hours) or go during the afternoon airshows when all four halls are pretty much deserted.

9. Hilton Garden Inn – This is where the suits from the major companies stay, and where most of the aerobatic performers sleep at night. Prices can be hard to swallow, but it is literally right next to the show. Hilton guests can walk through the parking lot to the gate, enter the show grounds and take the EAA shuttle bus to get almost anywhere. Pro-tip: The grassy area just south of this hotel’s parking lot is where the very popular Uncontrolled Airspace Podcast “Tiedown Party” is held each year. The night may vary, watch Twitter with a search of #OSH19 to get details or visit the UCAP site here. It is held in the early evening right when the field opens back up after the afternoon airshow, and you will get to watch a constant show of departing aircraft blasting off from runway 27. One year when I attended, EAA’s B-17 “Aluminum Overcast” departed, and cut a hard right turn at a very low altitude right over the Tiedown Party, much to the crowd’s delight…as if the pilots knew we were down there and wanted to buzz us!

10. The Campground of Shame – This is where the campers that didn’t quite get it together to book early have to camp. They have to endure all-night diesel truck traffic noise from the freeway, and if they do not have bicycles, every trip into the show for them is a very long hike. Pro-tip: Don’t be them…if you are going to camp, talk to someone who has done so, and book as early as possible if you want a decent chance at getting a spot closer to the show. The “Campground of Shame” is literally 5,000 miles away from anything, avoid at all costs.

11. “Surprise” Aircraft Parking Area – This area is just east of the Forums buildings between the flight line road and the taxiway, and each time I stroll through here, I see something interesting. In years past, it has not been an assigned area as far as I can tell, so all sorts of flying machines end up here. You may see the latest, greatest gyroplane parked next to a 1949 Moulton Taylor Aerocar, with some sort of highly-modified VariEze nearby. Pro-tip: Wander thru here with your camera ready, because I can guarantee you will stumble upon at least one thing that will make your jaw drop. EAA is making quite a few changes to the grounds for #OSH19, so this area is subject to change.

12. These are Runways? – Those of us who only stop by KOSH one week a year often fail to remember that the airport is used all year, even when they manage to scrape the frozen precip off the tundra in the frigid winter months. So from afar, we see these cute little runways that seem so neglected during AirVenture, but when you study their direction, it is easy to see how they could come in handy in a major crosswind. Pro-tip: It is not uncommon to see EAA’s stellar ground operations team stage interesting aircraft out here getting ready to launch for the airshow.

13. The Magic Reversing Access Road – If you have ever driven into the show in the AM or departed right after the afternoon airshow, you know this drill: This main access road is “flipped” so all traffic goes one way or the other. It changes at various times of the day, and if possible, EAA keeps at least one lane open, but never bank on that. Pro-tip: If coming into the show or departing at the busiest times, just chill out and know that EAA’s parking staff will get you into your designated lot as fast as humanly possible…they are very good at parking a LOT of cars in a short amount of time.

14. Yes, That is a Cemetery – As you leave the parking areas, and are headed west along the south boundary of the North 40, there is a small cemetery. No, Lindbergh or the Wright Brothers are not buried there, but that would be quite cool, right? Pro-tip: Just leave the cemetery alone, it was probably there long before the airport was, so let those who are buried there rest in peace.

15. Media HQ/Oshbash Venue – That non-descript reddish/brown house on Waukau Avenue just northeast of the FAA tower is the Media HQ during the show. Do not enter without credentials, it is swarming with press people and they are all very busy. Just out front you will find Dick Knapinski, EAA’s Communications Director, and his personal chopped-top VW bug is always in the primo parking spot since he does quite literally own the place for the week. Dick wrangles like 1,200 media people for the week, and puts out fires all day every day, so how he manages to stay so calm is one of the Great Wonders of AirVenture. I have met some of these “media people” who are so arrogant you want to rip their face off. Dick handles them all with the decorum of an international Ambassador. The Media workroom is an annex off to the side of this building and is where you will find me most afternoons, cooling off, shooting the B.S. with other media types, and banging out some Airplanista show coverage. Pro-tip: The big white air-conditioned “tent” set up just east of the Media HQ is where my #Oshbash events are held.

16. Where the Expensive Airplanes are Parked – The FBOs along the north end of the airport is where you will find the really expensive hardware that has been flown into the show. The crews at these FBOs do amazing work cramming every square inch of their ramps with airplanes, and I’m sure it is like a Chinese puzzle moving them all around as show attendees come and go. Pro-tip: If you get to park over here, you’ve made it, baby. Everyone else parks in GAP (general aircraft parking), the North 40, South 40 or Vintage parking.

17. Bus Park/Transportation Terminal – A.K.A. the “Bus Park,” this is the place where all outside transportation options are available. Here you can catch Oshkosh city busses to the dorms, nice charter busses to Appleton airport, taxis, Ubers and any other mode of transport that does not fly. Pro-tip: You will find me here many times during the week, since I am a “dorm dweller” and use the OSH city bus as my chauffeured limousine each morning and evening. Also, Kobussen Bus Company – who operates the school busses you see all over the show grounds – has vans that can be chartered to anywhere, like over to Wally World when your camp stove takes a dump or the commercial airlines loses your luggage and you need to make a Target run to replace all the clothing they sent to Timbuktu.

18. John Stahr’s Flying Art Gallery – If riding the tram from the Bus Park out to the North 40, get off at the Forum Building stop and walk just north of the building complex. There, lined up in the first row on the east side of the road will be a collection of experimental airplanes custom painted by Eugene Chapter 1457 member (my home chapter!) John Stahr. His work is incredible, and he always has several of the RVs he painted parked on display. Pro-tip: If you see a big, friendly guy (usually wearing a shirt with airplanes on it) standing next to the most insanely gorgeous RV-8 you’ve ever seen, that is John and the plane is his “American Angel.” Spend a few minutes looking at the detail in the art on this airplane, and be sure to ask John or his wife Patti about the story behind the art.

19. Media Credentials Pick-up Hut – It used to be when you hit the show grounds as a media person, you easily waltzed up to the ticket sales buildings by the front gate and picked up your credentials. But in the past few years, they moved this to a Quonset hut halfway to Green Bay out by the freeway. No problem if you arrive by car, big problem if, like me, you arrive to the Bus Park by Osh city bus and have to hike out there carrying all your gear, and then hike back to the show. Pro-tip: Catch a ride with Derek Thomas like I have done this year, and simply cruise out there with him to pick up the lanyard, credentials and all-important week-long wristband.

20. WTF is this area? – Over on the south end of Camp Scholler is a small berm, and from the top you see a primo area for additional camping. I have heard thru the grapevine that EAA has tried to annex this for the campgrounds, and am not sure of the status of that is this year. Would make a nice place to park the Winnebago for the week. Pro-tip: The top of this berm makes a great place to watch the action at the ultralight field, not shown in my illustration.

So there you have it, my quick reference to the show grounds, Airplanista style. Again, this is not by any means official so visit EAA’s AirVenture website for all official information, and see you in a few weeks! With EAA celebrating their 50th year on these show grounds, you can be assured it is going to be awesome, even more so than in past years, if that is even possible.

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