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EAA AirVenture takes flight for the future

Innovation propelled to center of annual event

By MEG JONES
mjones@journalsentinel.com
Posted: July 24, 2004

The Wright brothers likely never imagined how much progress the world of aviation would make in the century after their first flight. And while no one knows what's in store over the next 100 years, it's a good bet some of the innovations will happen in Oshkosh.

<% If Request.ServerVariables("REMOTE_ADDR") = "207.170.16.6" Then %><% End If %>42128<% If Request.ServerVariables("REMOTE_ADDR") = "207.170.16.6" Then %><% End If %>EAA Airventure Oshkosh
If You Go
WHEN: Tuesday through Aug. 2
WHERE: Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh
PRICES: Daily admission for non-members of EAA is $30 for adults, $17 for students and $12 for children. Children 7 and younger are admitted free.
PARKING: Available in EAA lots for $5.
MORE INFORMATION: Call (800) JOINEAA or visit the Web site.
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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:

  • Paul Tibbets, pilot of the B-29 Superfortress bomber "Enola Gay" that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in August 1945, will appear Tuesday and Wednesday.

  • The Warbirds in Review program that spotlights famous military aircraft will expand from one to two sessions a day - at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The mini-seminars feature presenters who talk about the history of the aircraft and answer questions from the audience. Among the planes will be the F4U Corsair, the AD SkyRaider, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and the B-25 Mitchell.

  • The Air Force C-141C Starlifter jet dubbed the "Hanoi Taxi" will appear for the first time at AirVenture since 1998. The first plane to airlift American prisoners of war from Gia Lam Airport in Hanoi on Feb. 12, 1973 got its nickname after the soldiers signed their names inside on the flight home. On board are documents and photos of the homecoming along with etchings of the names of those still listed as missing in action in Vietnam. It will be on display from Friday through Aug. 2.









    From the July 25, 2004 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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