The Great Migration

By Michael Martin, EAA 1047599

When you must get there, you absolutely find a way. There is an unseen force that pulls us all to make the annual trek to this lush green farm valley in Wisconsin. People flock to AirVenture in many ways. Some drive fancy cars or big SUVs or family minivans. Others navigate there in huge motor homes, many travel with commercial airlines, while many more fly themselves into the valley in shiny private airplanes. Regardless of the means, they all must complete the journey. You simply must! It is an irresistible force that compels all of us aviation-starved addicts forward. It is a law-of-nature sort of thing, like a magnetic force.

The pull of a prop is a serious affliction. We are cursed with a piston-powered demon that we know all too well. He lurks deep inside our hearts. Our friends and family worry about our affliction, this condition is both confusing and disturbing to them, so they ponder a group intervention to rescue us. But how? They simply do not understand our personal utopia.

Utopia, what is it? We think of the book and movie Lost Horizon as the origin of Shangri-La, a fictional utopian lamasery(a Tibetan monastery, I had to look it up. – Ed.) located high in the mountains of Tibet. Our Shangri-La is found in an equally opulent green valley, but it is a home within the heartland of America. It is our heaven on earth.

The journey to Shangri-La is different for each of us. For some, it is a very first-time adventure. For others, it is yet another pilgrimage to Shangri-La. You have come for 10, or 20, 30 or even 40 years in a row. There is no escape from our divine haven once we feel the draw pulling us towards it all. We are committed. We simply must go.

Driving to EAA AirVenture is a popular option for many attendees, especially for those who live within a reasonable driving distance or prefer the convenience of having their vehicles with them during the event. People drive to AirVenture from various parts of the United States and even from neighboring countries, such as Canada.

The specific locations people drive from vary, as attendees come from all over. Some may drive from nearby states such as Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, or Michigan, while others may embark on longer road trips from places like Texas, California, Florida, or the northeastern states. It is common for people to drive for several hours or even days to reach Oshkosh for AirVenture.

Since driving distances can vary significantly, it is advisable for attendees to plan their routes, account for traffic conditions, and make necessary accommodations along the way to ensure a smooth journey to the event.

Every year we see a village of folks from South Africa. The South African EAA Chapter 322 hosts a collaborative site with a mass of tents fitted with sleeping cots perfectly aligned for the South African aviation fans. It is just like a safari, only in the wilds of Oshkosh.

This year, about 150 people made the trip to Oshkosh. The journey is between 24 to 30 hours each way depending upon your routing. Most make it in two or three flights joined together. It is a costly trip and certainly an exhausting one, too. This is commitment to the passion of flight.

Internationally, attendees come from Europe, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Africa, and many other places.

Others fly in from all points in the United States. Most arrive at Chicago O’Hare, Milwaukee, or Green Bay. That is the easy part. Then, they need to find a way to get to Oshkosh. That last highway leg can be challenging. If you follow the various Oshkosh Facebook groups, you will see strangers reach out to others to ask for a ride or to offer a ride. They state their arrival times and hope for an empty car seat to traverse the last part of the trip. Of course, plans need to be made to get back to these airports after the show ends, too.

One year, a group in southern Ontario in Canada chartered a de Havilland Q400 to fly in and out for a one-day hop to attend the event. The Q400 made easy work of the route and arrived very early in the day and left late for the return flight back over the border. Yes, it was just a long, one-day extravagance, but I am sure that everyone who purchased the charter seat loved the adventure.

EAA AirVenture attracts a diverse range of private airplanes, highlighting a wide variety of aircraft types and models. Here are some common types of private airplanes that frequently arrive at EAA AirVenture:

  1. Homebuilt Aircraft: EAA was built on supporting the homebuilt aircraft community. Many pilots and builders fly their own experimental or kitbuilt airplanes to the event. This includes a wide range of designs, such as Van’s RV series, Zenith Aircraft, Sonex, Kitfox, and many more.
  2. Vintage and Classic Aircraft: Vintage and classic airplanes are always well-represented at AirVenture. These aircraft often capture the nostalgia and history of aviation. Examples include iconic models like the Piper Cub, Stearman biplanes, Waco aircraft, Beech Staggerwings, and various models from the golden age of aviation.
  3. Warbirds: EAA AirVenture attracts a significant number of military warbird aircraft. These are historic military airplanes that have been restored and maintained by dedicated enthusiasts. Popular warbirds include the P-51 Mustang, T-6 Texan, B-25 Mitchell, F4U Corsair, and many others.
  4. General Aviation Aircraft: General aviation aircraft, which include a broad range of single-engine and multi-engine planes, are commonly seen at AirVenture. These aircraft are typically used for personal and business travel, flight training, and recreational flying. Examples include the Cessna 172, Piper Archer, Beechcraft Bonanza, Cirrus SR22, and Diamond DA40.
  5. Ultralights and Light-Sport Aircraft: EAA AirVenture also showcases ultralights and light-sport aircraft. These include small, lightweight, and often economical aircraft that fall within specific weight and performance limits. Ultralights and light-sport aircraft are popular among recreational pilots. Examples include the Quicksilver GT, Flight Design CT, Zenith CH 750, and various powered parachutes and gyroplanes.

These are just a few examples of the types of private aircraft that arrive at EAA AirVenture. The event truly represents the rich diversity of aviation, with attendees flying in a wide range of aircraft from different eras and categories.

Private airplanes arriving at EAA AirVenture have specific procedures to follow to ensure a smooth and organized arrival process. These procedures are covered in great detail in a NOTICE (formally known as a NOTAM) that is published each year before the event. This document must be studied thoroughly before anyone attempts to fly in to Oshkosh for AirVenture.

Happy campers with one of those smokeless camp fires.

Camping at EAA AirVenture offers attendees a unique experience and a chance to immerse themselves in the aviation community. Here are some common ways people camp at the event:

  1. Tent Camping: Many attendees bring their tents and camp in designated tent camping areas. These areas provide space for pitching tents and typically offer basic amenities such as portable toilets, shower facilities, and access to water stations. Tent camping allows for a more traditional camping experience and is a popular choice for those who enjoy sleeping under the stars.
  2. RV Camping: EAA AirVenture provides dedicated areas for RV camping. Attendees can bring their recreational vehicles and set up camp in these designated spots. RV camping areas often have amenities like electrical hookups, water connections, and dump stations for sewage disposal. This option provides more comfort and convenience for those who prefer to have their own kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping quarters.
  3. Pop-Up Campers and Travel Trailers: Some attendees bring pop-up campers or travel trailers to AirVenture. These compact camping options offer a middle ground between tent camping and RV camping. They provide more comfort than a tent but are smaller and more portable than full-sized RVs.
  4. Group Camping: Some aviation organizations or groups organize their own camping areas within the larger camping sections. These groups often coordinate in advance and reserve a block of space for their members to camp together. Group camping fosters a sense of community and allows attendees to connect with like-minded individuals.
  5. One of the fun and more interesting aspects of camping in Camp Scholler is to walk around and see the ‘alternate’ means of camping. Some attendees build their own RV from every sort of vehicle imaginable. There are a lot of bus conversions, from school buses to city transit buses. Last year, a pumper fire truck was converted into an RV with multiple stories, topped off with a rooftop deck with large patio umbrellas for tables for lounging and watching the air shows. Another brave soul rents a U-Haul box truck and sets up cots in the box. There are a few huge safari tents like you might have seen in a movie like Out of Africa or Tarzan. These colossal tents are super luxurious with night tables, reading lamps, and other amenities.
That box truck

Tenting under the wing of an airplane is a popular option for thousands of attendees at EAA AirVenture. This type of camping, known as “fly-in camping,” allows pilots to park their aircraft in a designated area and set up a tent under the wing for accommodation. It provides a unique experience of camping right next to the airplane.

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As for the number of airplanes that arrive for EAA AirVenture, it can vary from year to year. EAA AirVenture is one of the largest aviation events in the world, attracting a significant number of aircraft and aviation enthusiasts. In a typical year, the event sees tens of thousands of aircraft arrivals.

The exact number of airplanes that arrive at EAA AirVenture can fluctuate depending on factors such as weather conditions, geographic location, economic factors, and other variables. The event has welcomed a wide range of aircraft types, including homebuilt airplanes, vintage aircraft, warbirds, ultralights, rotorcraft, and many others.

It is safe to say that the event draws a substantial number of aircraft, making it a truly remarkable gathering for aviation enthusiasts from around the world.

Regardless of the camping option chosen, it is important to familiarize oneself with the camping guidelines and rules set by EAA AirVenture. These guidelines may include restrictions on open fires, generator usage, quiet hours, and any specific regulations to ensure safety and enjoyment for all campers.

During EAA AirVenture, visitors have various options for accommodation in and around Oshkosh. Here are some popular choices:

  1. Campgrounds: EAA offers on-site camping options at the AirVenture grounds, including both tent and RV camping. This is a convenient option for many attendees who prefer to stay within the event area and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow aviation enthusiasts.
  2. Hotels and Motels: Oshkosh and the surrounding areas have a range of hotels and motels that cater to AirVenture attendees. These accommodations vary in price, amenities, and proximity to the event grounds. It is advisable to book well in advance as rooms can fill up quickly during the event.
  3. Vacation Rentals: Some visitors opt to stay in vacation rentals, such as apartments, condominiums, or houses, which can be found in and around Oshkosh. Websites like Airbnb and VRBO are popular platforms for finding such accommodations.
  4. Nearby Cities: If accommodations in Oshkosh are limited, some attendees choose to stay in nearby cities, such as Appleton, Neenah, or Fond du Lac, which offer additional lodging options. These cities are within a reasonable driving distance from Oshkosh.

When planning accommodation for EAA AirVenture, it is important to consider factors such as budget, proximity to the event, and personal preferences. Due to the popularity of the event, it is recommended to make reservations as early as possible to secure the desired lodging.

There are numerous reasons why people choose to attend EAA AirVenture. Here are some of the key motivations that draw aviation enthusiasts to this renowned event:

  1. Aviation Showcase: EAA AirVenture is the world’s largest gathering of aviation enthusiasts and showcases a vast array of aircraft, from vintage and classic airplanes to experimental and cutting-edge designs. Attendees can see and explore a wide variety of aircraft up close, including rare and unique models.
  2. Air Shows and Aerobatics: AirVenture features thrilling air shows and aerobatic performances throughout the event. Spectators can witness stunning aerial displays by skilled pilots, including breathtaking maneuvers, formation flying, precision aerobatics, and even performances by military demonstration teams.
  3. Educational Opportunities: The event offers a wealth of educational opportunities, including workshops, forums, seminars, and presentations by industry experts. These sessions cover a broad range of aviation topics, from aircraft construction and maintenance to safety, technology, and aviation history. Attendees can gain valuable knowledge and insights from experienced professionals.
  4. Homebuilt Aircraft Community: EAA AirVenture has a strong connection to the homebuilt aircraft community. It provides a platform for homebuilders to display their projects, exchange ideas, and learn from one another. The event features specific areas, such as the Homebuilt Aircraft Display and forums dedicated to homebuilding, enabling enthusiasts to connect with like-minded individuals.
  5. Networking and Camaraderie: EAA AirVenture brings together aviation enthusiasts from around the world, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie among attendees. It provides an opportunity to meet fellow pilots, aircraft builders, industry professionals, and aviation enthusiasts who share a passion for flight. Networking and exchanging experiences with others who have similar interests is a significant draw for many attendees.
  6. Vendor Exhibits: The event hosts a vast exhibitor area where aviation-related companies, organizations, and vendors highlight their products, services, and innovations. Attendees can explore the latest aviation technology, aircraft equipment, avionics, flight gear, and much more.
  7. Unique Experiences: EAA AirVenture offers unique experiences that are difficult to find elsewhere, such as participating in aircraft rides, attending hands-on workshops, taking flight demonstrations, or even trying out flight simulators. These experiences provide a deeper immersion into the world of aviation.

Overall, EAA AirVenture offers a captivating blend of aviation showcases, educational opportunities, networking, and thrilling experiences that make it a must-attend event for aviation enthusiasts of all ages and backgrounds. It is a must-do event for any aviation enthusiast. Once you go the first time, you will be pulled back craving to attend year after year. It is on every pilot’s bucket list. Will I see you there?

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