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EAA AirVenture: Population 640,000 and Growing

August 05, 2019 | by Nick Hurm

For 50 consecutive years, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) has hosted its annual AirVenture fly-in 90 miles north of Milwaukee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

What started as an organization for homebuilders in 1953 has ballooned into an international aircraft association for all segments of aviation that hosts one of the biggest fly-in events in the world. The first fly-in at Oshkosh actually took place in 1956, before moving to Milwaukee, then Rockford, Illinois, and finally back to Oshkosh in 1970.

The 1956 show drew approximately 300 aircraft and 100,000 people. This July, more than 10,000 aircraft and 640,000 people attended the week-long event. There were 16,807 aircraft operations in the 11-day period from July 19 to 29, making Wittman Regional Airport the world’s busiest airport with an average of approximately 127 takeoffs/landings per hour.

Some of the highlights from 2019:

A number of milestone anniversaries took place this year, beginning with EAA celebrating its 50th year in Oshkosh. EAA thanked Oshkosh residents for 50 years of support with free tickets. More than 8,700 residents attended, equating to 13 percent of the city’s population.

To celebrate the 50th year in service of the Boeing 747, UPS brought its brand new 747-8F equipped with GE Aviation’s GEnx-2B engines. The massive cargo aircraft drew long lines for attendee tours. The nose of the 747 was opened up, with the flight crew and other UPS staff on hand to answer questions about the aircraft. The GEnx engine is also celebrating its 15th anniversary.

Apollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins was a featured guest at Oshkosh, in coordination with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Collins told a packed crowd, "Everywhere we unanimously heard, 'We did it! We human beings left the surface of the Earth.' That’s a powerful sentiment. I don’t know of any event in my 88 years where there was global unanimity on anything."

A Boeing 747-8F and 787 Dreamliner, both powered with GEnx engines, sit front and center at Boeing Square.

Night air show and fireworks
One of the most popular additions to AirVenture over the past 20 years is the Wednesday and Saturday Night Air Show and fireworks. This show, sponsored by GE Aviation, included performances by the USAF F-22 Demo Team, Aeroshell Aerobatic Team (T-6 Texans) and the Red Bull Air Force (MBB Bo 105 helicopter, wingsuits).

The People
One of the reasons EAA AirVenture becomes an annual ritual to many attendees is the familiar faces—friends, coworkers and neighbors—that attend the event. This includes two great stories of GE Aviation employees making the trip.

Mark Johnson, a 20-year veteran at GE, flew to Oshkosh in his Van’s RV-12 airplane that he completed this year. "Both the flight to and from Oshkosh went great," said Johnson. "I got lots of compliments on the plane and the new paint job. I may be somewhat biased, but I think I had the best looking RV-12 at Oshkosh!"

Johnson attended the event last year, volunteering for the One Week Wonder project to build a functional plane similar to his own in just seven days.

Ashley Ringer, a fourth-generation pilot and GE Aviation engineer, flew to Oshkosh for the week with a gang of family members. Ringer has lost count of the times she has been to Oshkosh— "it’s either eight or nine"—and she has flown in on her own plane on five occasions.

GE Aviation engineer Mark Johnson and his newly-built RV-12.

GE90-115B fan blade auction
GE Aviation celebrated its 100th anniversary at Oshkosh, bringing an original turbosupercharger, which launched the aviation business in 1919. The team also auctioned off a GE90-115B blade during the EAA foundation’s "The Gathering" auction, which supports aviation education programs for young aviators. More than $2.8 million was raised during the event.

This GE90-115B fan blade was part of the auction that raised $2.8 million for EAA programs.

Catalyst announcement
During the event, GE Aviation announced that XTI Aircraft Company had selected GE’s Catalyst engine as the core of its TriFan 600 hybrid-electric propulsion system. This is the first hybrid application announced for Catalyst, which is the first clean-sheet turboprop engine to hit the general aviation market in more than 30 years. The engine is currently going through testing and will enter into service on the new Cessna Denali.

(Left to right): Craig Hoover, advanced technology and hybrid pursuits leader for GE Aviation BGA; Bob Labelle, XTI Aircraft CEO; Paul Corkery, GE Aviation turboprops general manager; and Brad Mottier, vice president and general manager of GE Aviation BGA and Integrated Systems.

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