EAA AirVenture Oshkosh (formerly The EAA Annual Convention and Fly-In) is an annual gathering of aviation enthusiasts held each summer at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, United States.
The event is presented by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), a national/international organization based in Oshkosh. The airshow is seven days long and typically begins on the last Monday in July. The airport's control tower is the busiest control tower in the world during the gathering.
EAA was founded in 1953 in Milwaukee, Wis., as an organization for people who were building or restoring their own recreational aircraft. Homebuilding is still a large part of EAA, but the organization has grown over the years to include almost every aspect of recreational aviation and aeronautics.
The first EAA fly-in was held in 1953 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1959 EAA fly-in moved to Rockford, Illinois. When it outgrew its facilities at the Rockford airport, the EAA fly-in moved to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in 1970.
For many years the official name of the event was The EAA Annual Convention and Fly-In. In 1998 the name was changed to AirVenture Oshkosh. But many regular attendees still refer to it as The Oshkosh Airshow, or just Oshkosh.
For many years, the access to the flight line (area directly adjacent to the runway) was restricted to EAA members only; this restriction was lifted in the late 1990s.
The British Aerospace / McDonnell Douglas Harrier AV-8B (see BAE Sea Harrier), a Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (VTOL/STOVL) military fighter aircraft made appearances in 1986, 1999, 2002, 2004, and 2007.
The British Concorde made regular appearances during its scheduled operations, beginning in 1985 and also appearing in 1988, 1990, 1994 and 1998.
During their 1986 North-America tour the Italian display team Frecce Tricolori also stopped to perform in Oshkosh.
In 1994, a unique gathering at the event featured 15 of the 25 then-surviving Apollo astronauts, including the complete crews of Apollo 11 (Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins) and Apollo 8 (Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders).
In 1997 (celebrating the 50th anniversary of an independent US Air Force) The SR-71 Blackbird made a fly-over. This was supposed to be supersonic but due to a fuel leak, the aircraft made an emergency landing in Milwaukee. The first pass featured a simulated in flight refueling with a KC-135T from 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell AFB.
In 2003 the Wright Flyer was a central figure, and a replica designed to fly on the 100th Anniversary of the first flight was granted its flying certification by the Federal Aviation Administration during the show. A recent version of Microsoft's Flight Simulator (version 2004) and Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 2 were unveiled there, and a physical Wright Flyer mock-up combined with Microsoft's software on a display in front of the pilot (a member of the attending public) was a popular attraction.
In 2005 SpaceShipOne made its only public appearance before flying off to the Smithsonian. Also flying at the show was GlobalFlyer that had made its record around the world flight in the same year. In 1987 Burt Rutan's Rutan Voyager, the first aircraft to fly around the world without refueling, made its final appearance before its record setting flight.
Innodyn's small turbine engines made their debut at, and are regularly displayed at Oshkosh.
Highlights of the airshow include the following:
- Displays of visiting aircraft of all sizes and types. Most of the aircraft on display at the fly-in are in one of these categories:
- Homebuilt aircraft, built both from scratch and from kits
- Vintage aircraft
- Restored and replica former military aircraft, aka "Warbirds"
- Active duty military aircraft from the U.S. and other nations
- Notable aircraft from commercial aviation and the airlines
- Amphibians and float-planes
- Commercial exhibits
- Large exhibits by NASA and FAA
- Showcase fly-bys, including the largest formation fly-by of vintage warplanes in the world
- A daily aerobatics airshow
- Informative lectures by professional and amateur presenters
For many attendees, an equally important aspect of the fly-in is the opportunity to socialize with other aviation enthusiasts. Lots of people meet up each year with "Oshkosh friends" who they only see at the fly-in. For many years these Oshkosh friends had no contact during the rest of the year, but recently many of them have begun to stay in touch throughout the year via e-mail. Many attendees arrive three to four days before the official start of the event or stay a few days after the end for the opportunity to relax in an aviation environment and to socialize with other aviation enthusiasts from around North America. Also, a very large contingent of volunteer workers arrive as early as a month before the event, and stay long after the end, to help with presenting the event. Among these volunteers are cadets from the Civil Air Patrol, referred to as "Blue Berets," working the flightlines and looking for ELTs. The cadets spend the first seven days before the airshow training for the event and then work the entire week of the show.
It is estimated that 10,000–15,000 aircraft visit Wittman Field each year during the fly-in. Attendance is estimated at over 700,000, which is computed by multiplying the number of tickets sold times the number of estimated daily visits by each ticket holder. This technique allows for one person who buys a weeklong pass to count as a separate person each day, which does properly account for each person's actual use of the grounds and facilities, but adds complexity to making a final attendance estimate. The EAA estimates and Oshkosh Northwestern reports the actual number of attendees is most likely between 200,000-300,000 separate people, which would still leave AirVenture as the biggest civilian airshow in the United States.
People arrive by both air and ground transport. The large number of aircraft arrivals and departures during the fly-in week officially makes the Wittman Field FAA Control Tower the "busiest in the world" for that week. To accommodate the huge flow of aircraft around the airport and the nearby airspace, a special NOTAM is published each year, choreographing the normal and emergency (if need be) procedures to follow.
Hotels, dormitories, and many private guest rooms in the region are almost always filled to capacity during the fly-in. But the large majority of visitors camp, under the wing of their airplane, or in the conventional campground that is adjacent to the airport and convention grounds which are beautifully adorned with excellent landscaping.
More than 4,000 volunteers contribute approximately 250,000 hours before, during and after the event. These volunteers are primarily EAA members, but also include a significant number of local volunteers. Civil Air Patrol cadets and senior officers who attend National Blue Beret (identified by a blue beret perched majestically atop their heads nearing the start of the air show) are found on base July 18-31 and work many aspects of the airshow; including, but not limited to: flight line marshalling, war bird security, and Emergency Services. During the airshow, cadets and senior officers contribute more than 2,000 hours marshalling aircraft for runway 9-27. Also, Police Explorers from southern Wisconsin operate traffic control at the airshow's busiest parking lots.
Approximately 1,100 portable toilets are supplied for the event, and EAA estimates that more than 2 million sheets of toilet paper are used. 
Air Traffic Operation
FAA air traffic controllers say working the EAA AirVenture is the “Super Bowl” of air traffic control. The work is challenging and unique. Each year, the AirVenture brings in more than 8,000 airplanes of all kinds. Special air traffic procedures, not seen or used anywhere else, will be used to ensure safe, coordinated operations. For their work, these controllers will not earn a Super Bowl ring, but instead will wear a coveted fluorescent pink polo shirt – the high-visibility mark (necessary on the runways) of an FAA AirVenture air traffic controller.
Competitive Selection Process
The FAA has staffed a tower at the EAA convention since the 1960s. FAA Air Traffic staffers (including controllers, supervisors and managers) compete from throughout the FAA’s new 17-state Central Terminal Service Area to work this event. In 2007, 145 air traffic professionals representing 45 facilities volunteered to staff the facilities at Oshkosh (OSH), Fond du Lac (FLD) and Fisk. Sixty-four controllers and 11 supervisors were ultimately selected. Controllers normally can only volunteer for a maximum of seven years at the EAA convention, to allow others a chance to work this temporary duty assignment. However, recent staffing shortages at some facilities have caused the FAA to use a few veteran controllers beyond the seven year limit.
The controllers are divided into teams of four persons each:
- One Veteran controller serves as the team leader. Another Veteran works on the team as well. Each of these controllers will have three or more years of previous EAA AirVenture experience. Fifty percent of the controller workforce falls into this category.
- At least one member of the team will have one to two years of EAA AirVenture experience. This group is identified as the Limited category and makes up 25 percent of the total controller population.
- The final member of each team will be new to AirVenture duty and is identified as a Rookie. Controllers in this category total the final 25 percent of the controller workforce.
These teams stay together throughout the convention as they rotate through the control towers at OSH or FLD, FISK VFR Approach Control and the two mobile departure platforms known as MOOCOWs (Mobile Operating and Communications Workstations).
It’s important to note that even a “rookie” will have the years necessary to become certified as a Certified Professional Controller (CPC). All controllers, operations supervisors and the air traffic operations managers are certified for operations at their home facilities.
- "EAA AirVenture takes flight for the future", Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
- Microsoft (April 2, 2003). Thousands Recreate History on Microsoft’s 1903 Wright Flyer Simulator. Press release.
- National Blue Beret. Retrieved on 2007-12-15.
- Oshkosh Northwestern - The article requested can not be found! Please refresh your browser or go back. (U0,20060802,OSH0101,608020375,AR)
- Experimental Aircraft Association. EAA Airventure Facts. Press release.