Thursday, August 13, 2015

The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration: AIRVENTURE 2015

Ask any pilot or Aviation geek what the name, "OSHKOSH" brings to mind and the large majority will be able to refer to the yearly event organised by EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association), the last week of July at the Wittman airport in Wisconsin, USA.

The event which is held over 7 days (Monday to Sunday), is often referred to as "The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration" and that is clearly not an understatement! This year has been a particular busy year with more than 10.000 aircraft arriving at the Wittman and surrounding airports during the course of the week. In total more than 550.000 people attended the 2015 edition of the show, which makes it more than likely the "World's Largest Aviation event". 

Warbirds queing

I've tried before, but it is close to impossible to describe to somebody who has never been to Oshkosh, how large the event really is. There is over 5 km of walkable flight-line, along the three runways and that doesn't even include the exhibition space on the sides... Luckily enough there is an excellent "tram" service (tractors pulling carriages) connecting most places.

Due to work commitments in Dubai, I was unfortunately only able to attend the last three days of this years show; Friday to Sunday. If one has the option of picking the days, I would recommend going earlier in the week, if possible Monday to Thursday or even up to the Friday night.

The Airventure grounds are subdivided in several areas; the main ones being Warbirds, Vintage, Homebuilts and the central area, which this year was called, Boeing Plaza. 

Likely the place where I spend most of my time over the three days; warbirds has a large variety of aircraft from small L-birds through World War II fighters, bombers, transport aircraft and trainers, all the way through the classic jets of the Korea and Vietnam era. 

L-21B Piper Super Cub
Piper  L-21B

Sweet Revenge P-51
P-51D Mustang

Eye in eye with the de Havilland FB26 Mosquito
The World's only airworthy Mosquito

B-17 crew members saluting the US flag
B-17 Bomber crew

A4-D Skyraider
A4-D Skyraider, Vietnam era

Warbirds in review, F-100
F-100 Super Sabre, Vietnam era

Being the co-owner of a vintage aircraft myself, it is a very close second choice... Over the week, just short of 1000 vintage birds landed at Wittman airport. Sub-divided in three categories: Antiques (1903-1945), Classics (1945-1955), Contemporaries (1956-1970); there was plenty of opportunity for interesting aviation photography.

1934 WACO S3HD in front of the Vintage Hangar
Waco in front of the Vintage Hangar

J-3 Piper Cub taxiing out
J-3 Piper Cub

Chandler Field Express DC-3
DC-3 Dakota

Collection of Howard DGA vintage aircraft
Howard DGA line-up

Call Air cockpit
Call Air cockpit

EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association), which organises Airventure every year, was found in 1953 around the homebuilt aircraft community. Today it has somewhat outgrown its origin and now includes most aspects of aviation and aeronautics. 

Burt Rutan talks
Its initial roots can however still be very much felt throughout the grounds and this years presence of Burt Rutan, the father of the Canard homebuilts such as the VariEze and Long-Ez, made it even more special!

Homebuilders clubhouse
Homebuilders clubhouse

Lonely Glasair I
Glasair I 

Around the World flyer: KR2
KR-2 Around the World flyer from the UK

In show-center one finds, "Boeing plaza"; the place where some of the top aircraft of the event are showcased. I often find it somewhat too busy and only go there when the largest crowds are not there; i.e. early morning or around sunset.

Fireworks over the B-29 at Airventure 2015
The image that was featured for my Pic(k) of the week 31: Firework over the B-29, was shot at Boeing plaza as well.

Rimowa Junkers F13
Rimowa Junckers F13 replica

That's all brother, lead C-47 for D-Day
The original C-47 (military DC-3) aircraft that lead the D-Day invasion

F-35 and F-22 in the background at night
F-35 and F-22 at night

B-29 engine detail
B-29 bomber engine 

Every afternoon a full airshow is held with a program that varies somewhat day to day. As there are so many warbirds at Airventure, themed displays are being flown throughout the week. Unfortunately I missed the Lancaster and Mosquito flying during the Battle of Britain presentation on Thursday, but I did enjoy photographing Saturdays "Battle of the Pacific" themed show.

Tora Tora Tora trio
Tora Tora Tora in action

B-29 taking-off
B-29 bomber taking-off

Zero replica based on T-6 during landing
Zero replica landing

F-22 Raptor taking-off
F-22 Raptor taking-off

Twice a week (WED/SAT) there is a twilight and night airshow. Although difficult the photograph, it is has a very different vibe and is definitely worth it! 

F-100 Super Sabre
F-100 Super Sabre during the twilight show!

Airventure is great for aviation photography. There are hardly any barriers around aircraft on display, which allows one to really get close and personal. Pretty much the only exceptions were the high tech military aircraft like the F-22 and F-35.

DC-3 taxiing while an F-22 Raptor is landing

It wasn't rare for me the spend anything from 12 to 14 hours per day at the show and given the hot and humid weather, I strongly recommend travelling light. For the majority of the time, I took a small backpack with my Fujifilm X-T1, XF18-135 and XF55-200 lenses. Occasionally I also shot some images with the XF50-140. 

This blogpost is by now means all inclusive! I didn't even mention the amazing Ultralight flying that happens on the grass-strip, the great EAA museum on the field, the many exhibition hangars packed with Aviation goodies; or the seaplane base where one can escape the busy crowds.

Seaplane base

Airventure is a must see (at least once!) for every pilot and aviation enthusiast! I personally can't attend the show every year, but I will make a serious effort to go every three to five years. For the ones interested, the dates for the 2016 edition are: July 25th till 31st. If you plan on attending, now is a good time to start booking your accommodation!

Glasstar camping
So far, I've always stayed with a local family, but one day I would like to do the camping thing as every one keeps on saying it is even better! Arriving by air would make it even more exciting... Who knows, maybe one day!

All of my AIRVENTURE 2015 images can be found here.

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