The theme at this year's EAA AirVenture, which begins its week-long run Tuesday at Wittman Regional Airport, is "Launching the Next Century of Flight." Innovation will be highlighted along with all the planes, pilots and aviation greats that can be seen each year.
"The first century of flight was launched at Kitty Hawk, but what better place to launch the second century than in Oshkosh," said EAA President Tom Poberezny. "Oshkosh has become known as an event where innovation is always introduced, so we want to focus on that."
The Experimental Aircraft Association was started by Poberezny's father more than 50 years ago as a club for people who built their own planes. Homebuilders are still the core group of the organization which has since greatly expanded to encompass practically all forms of aviation.
Over the years, the annual fly-in became the place to unveil new planes, aviation inventions and other new technology. It still is.
"Oshkosh is a place where people bring their dreams and are given the opportunity to fulfill their dreams," Poberezny said.
In the 1980s Burt Rutan brought Voyager, the first and only plane to circumnavigate the globe non-stop on one tank of gas, to Oshkosh. Now he's trying to win the $10 million X Prize awarded to the first privately funded entrepreneur to send three people 100 kilometers in the atmosphere (about 62.5 miles) and return them safely to terra firma twice within two weeks.
Rutan is a busy guy and he's right in the midst of tweaking and testing his aircraft, SpaceShipOne, which made a successful test flight in June. But he's taking time out of his schedule to come to Oshkosh.
SpaceShipOne will stay at its home base in the Mojave Desert, but Rutan and the aircraft's pilot, Mike Melvill, are scheduled to appear at AirVenture and talk about their civilian space efforts on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
"Having Burt and Mike here will be exciting," said Poberezny. "It's their first public appearance in a place where they'll be interacting with the public at large since SpaceShipOne flew. People want to hear Burt. He's made the Walter Mitty story come true."
More than 800 commercial exhibitors will set up shop on the AirVenture grounds to show off the newest aviation technology.
Thousands of visitors come to Oshkosh via the skies in their own aircraft, ranging from homebuilts, vintage bi-planes and ultralights to helicopters, Cessnas and old military planes that have been lovingly restored. So many planes take off and land, in fact, that tiny Wittman Field is transformed into the world's busiest airport during the convention.
Among the highlights at this year's AirVenture:
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