Oshkosh AirVenture 2002

The United Kingdom has Farnborough and France has the Paris Air Show but, despite the sheer number and quality of America airshows, there isn't a world famous American airshow which is consider "the" one to attend.   In recent times there's been an effort to promote the annual EAA AirVenture (otherwise known as the Oshkosh airshow) as the premier event on the American calendar.    However Oshkosh is limited by its historical roots, and it's unlikely that AirVenture will ever achieve the status that some people hope for.   The show's name highlights its limitations - it's organized and run by the EAA or "Experimental Aircraft Association", which is primarily an umbrella organization for people for home-build their planes.   The push to have AirVenture recognized as America's best airshow also comes from contributors to Flying magazine, which is America's main magazine for private pilots.

It's no surprise, then, that the emphasis at Oshkosh is on homebuilt and privately owned vintage aircraft, some of which you can see in this civil aircraft highlights page.   Burt Rutan and others keep the dream of genuinely experimental aircraft alive, this year with a display of a rocket-powered version of Rutan's unusually shaped Long-EZ plane; Burt himself wasn't involved with this project, it was done by the company XCOR as a preliminary stage in their attempt to win the Ansari X-Prize to achieve civilian spaceflight.   A significant section of each AirVenture is devoted to aerobatics displays which is not surprising, considering that the world's largest aerobatic organization, the International Aerobatic Club, is a division of the EAA.   However, military aircraft, the bread and butter of other airshows, are given a smaller part of the programme at AirVenture.   Even this is nothing to be sneezed at - there's a good enough selection of World War Two military aircraft to keep me coming back year after year, as this World War Two aircraft highlights page demonstrates.

However, the AirVenture website won't tell you the list of military aircraft expected to attend, and some of the warbird pilots I spoke to were annoyed by the lack of support they received from the organizers.   Modern military aircraft get very little attention - there's usually a marine corps AV-8B Harrier doing its ear-splitting routine, but that's about it.   During a slow section of the programme in 2002 there was a casual announcement that at 11 o'clock  the next day a B-2 Spirit "stealth bomber" would do a display.   Forewarned, I was one of the few people ready when the B-2 arrived and made several passes.   At least it was better than 2001, when an F-18 Hornet took off and was only announced after it was gone!   Since there aren't that many present-day military aircraft at the show, I've combined modern military aircraft with some Vietnam era planes in the post World War Two aircraft highlights page.