Whittman Field, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA 25-31 July 2022
Report by Peter and Kim Davison
This event just keeps getting bigger!
Attendance: Approximately 650,000 – A record total (previous mark: 642,000 in 2019) and 7 percent above 2021’s attendance of 608,000.
Total aircraft: More than 10,000 aircraft arrived at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh and other airports in east-central Wisconsin. At Wittman alone, there were 18,684 aircraft operations in the 11-day period from July 21-31, which is an average of approximately 121 takeoffs/landings per hour when the airport is open.
Total showplanes: 3,226 included: 1,375 registered in vintage aircraft parking, plus 1,156 homebuilt aircraft (up 6 percent over 2021), 369 warbirds (up 5 percent from ’21), 137 ultralights, 87 seaplanes, 77 aerobatic aircraft, and 25 rotorcraft.
For those data hungry enthusiasts considering next year, here a few more stats to contemplate:
Camping: More than 12,000 sites in aircraft and drive-in camping accounted for an estimated 40,000 visitors.
Volunteers: More than 5,000 contributing in excess of 250,000 hours.
Commercial exhibitors: 803.
Forums, Workshops, and Presentations: More than 1,400 sessions hosted throughout the week.
Social Media, Internet and Mobile: More than 10.6 million people were reached by EAA’s social media channels during AirVenture, with engagement of 1.1 million; More than 83,000 hours of viewing EAA video clips online also occurred during the event.
International guests: International visitors returned in a big way in 2022, with attendees from 92 countries outside the U.S., just one behind the record total from 2019.
The Gathering shines: The EAA Aviation Foundation’s annual event to support its aviation education programs attracted more than 1,000 people and raised more than $2 million dollars that will be focused on EAA’s mission of growing participation in aviation.
Media: 797 media representatives on-site, from six continents.
There are some that feel the event is now too large, requiring longer walks from parking, considerable stamina (I walked over 30 miles in 6 days) so stay focussed, list your priorities, add sunscreen and stay hydrated. One of the best qualities is plenty of water points, numerous clean toilets and a good choice of outlets.
Add in the EAA Museum on site and the Seaplane base nearby served by bus shuttles that cover the site and a great experience can be had.
Every afternoon includes over three hours of airshow with some common elements like F18s/F35s mixing it with heritage flyers and a variety of skilled aerobatic shows using warbirds or GA aircraft never usually seen inverted or trailing smoke.
Twice during the week was a stunning ‘nightshow’ culminating in flares, fireworks and pyrotechnics above, below and emanating from, aerobatic aircraft; crowds tend to be denser on those days.
The main central static display this year was dominated by the USAF 75th Anniversary with major items rotating through the week, the near perfect hot weather allowing a choice of light and time for the photographers.
Other areas are dedicated to warbirds, both static and flying, ranging from masses of T6s and T34s to rarities like the Mosquito, Tigercat, Lysander and Catalina. Lines of Mustangs plus B25s,C47s, T28s and assorted Yaks shared space with newcomers; Epsilons and Bulldogs now joining the lines.
EAA is all about homebuilders and there are lines and lines, particularly this year celebrating 50 years of the Vans range plus rarities and one-offs. A project to complete a 7 day build was completed just in time with an acceptance that many projects take years.
For those intent on seeing almost everything there are grass ramps covered in visiting GA, some with their owners’ tents beside them. Constant arrivals and departures are an ATC nightmare but it all seems to work. The Tuesday probably saw the heaviest pressure on space; once Wednesday’s night show was over the bare grass began to reappear. Even as late as Friday night the new MiG29 led team joined the party.
One contentious issue is the almost unlimited public access to parked aircraft which some owners object to with reports of damage and a lack of consideration from visitors. The pressure on finding a spot on a parked up flight-line needs to be addressed. Just as no visiting aircraft was ever turned away, tickets were sold on the door throughout; unlike RIAT where, once safe capacity is reached, that day is ‘sold out’ with all sales on-line. However, the relaxed US regulations on all things aeronautical are what encourages light aviation, the very essence of the EAA mission.