Fifteen Things About: EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014

Warbird Mass Formations - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014

Five Fifteen Things is the supersized EAA AirVenture version of our regular feature to review the airshows that we attend. You already know that the performers were great, so instead of recapping who flew what, we want to jump straight to the most notable moments or stories; things that would remain in your head on the drive home and for a long time afterward.

Airshow: EAA AirVenture Oshkosh
Location: Oshkosh, WI
Date: 7/28/14-8/3/14

1) Breezy Crash
Sadly, the show grounds became eerily quiet Thursday morning as a cloud of black smoke was seen over runway 18/36. A Breezy, a no-cockpit ultralight-style homebuilt, had crashed into the Oshkosh truck lot adjacent to the runway. The pilot eventually succumbed to his injuries and passed away later that day. The passenger suffered non life-threatening injuries which included a broken arm. The airport was closed for several hours following the crash. The crash hits even harder because the Breezy that went down is the one that gave rides and could be seen coming and going constantly throughout the week. Our thoughts are certainly with all of those affected, especially as the crash was quickly glossed over.

Scooter Yoak - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014Mike Wiskus - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014

2) WB-57 Canberra
Monday afternoon brought a rare sight to EAA AirVenture: NASA’s WB-57, a high altitude weather research aircraft. The WB-57 flies at altitudes in excess of 60,000 feet for as long as 6.5 hours and 2500 miles. Its missions include ground mapping, cosmic dust collection, rocket launch support, test bed operations, and various other high atmosphere scenarios. This particular WB-57 was resurrected after sitting in the boneyard for 41 years, a record for any aircraft. NASA currently owns three, all based out of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. It sat in Boeing Plaza for the entire week, offering a fantastic chance to see such a rare and unique aircraft.

Skip Stewart - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014Night Show - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014

3) Fairey Gannet
Another unique sighting on Monday was the world’s only airworthy Fairey Gannet, known as XT752 or “Janet”. The Gannet, a post-World War II submarine hunter and electronic countermeasures aircraft, features a co-axial (counter-rotating) prop on the nose and wings that fold at two separate locations. A total of 348 Fairey Gannets were built but today, only this one remains flying after being returned to airworthiness on August 9, 2013. The aircraft was a huge draw in Boeing Plaza all week, due to its size, the bright orange paint scheme, and the distinctive shape of it’s double folding wings and counter-rotating propellers.

Fairey GannetEAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014

4) MV-22 Osprey Demos
The USMC MV-22 Osprey demo shook the ground with its demo six times throughout the week, including a night show performance on Saturday. This was the Osprey’s first appearance at AirVenture since 2010. Two Ospreys were brought to the show, one that performed and one that was on static display at Boeing Plaza, across from the WB-57. The crew put on quite an impressive show, with several high speed breaks in airplane mode before transitioning to helicopter mode for a hovering demonstration. Photographers also appreciated the fact the the specially painted CAG aircraft was the one flown throught the week.

USAF Thunderbirds - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014Rob Holland - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014

5) The USAF Thunderbirds
The major story going into the show this year was of course the performance of the USAF Thunderbirds, which marked the first full aerobatic demonstration by a major military team ever at AirVenture. Fans were treated to a 45 minute site survey Thursday afternoon, as well as the arrival of the Thunderbird’s support C-17 which sat in Boeing Plaza during the weekend. It is fair to say that the presence of the Thunderbirds was controversial, largely due to the aerobatic box reequirements which saw the crowd line pushed back around 150 feet in order to provide sufficent space for the team to perform. This was in effect during the entire Friday, Saturday, and Sunday airshows, and resulted in poor views of other acts due to the aircraft that remained parked in front of the crowd. As soon as the Thunderbirds landed on Saturday, guests rushed to the original show line in order to get a front row spot for the night show. Ultimately the policy was a bit of an inconvenience, but it did not hamper the show significantly. It remains to be seen when and how often the Thunderbirds, Blue Angels, Snowbirds, or even foreign teams will schedule performances at the show now that the precedent has been set. The Breitling jet team from Europe is already scheduled for next year.

Wall of Fire - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014USAF Thunderbirds - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014

6) Crazy Weather
AirVenture regulars know that if you stay there for a week, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to get wet. However, this year was different compared to most years. Most of the time when rain threatens the show, it comes with a cold front or another disturbance that causes an afternoon line of rain and then clears out. This year was different – three of the seven days we had scattered showers and storms, resulting in on and off rain showers that kept spectators and photographers running for cover again and again, wondering if the daily airshow would go on or not. Thankfully, not one airshow during the week was forced to be totally canceled due to weather. Also on the plus side, the temperatures stayed reasonable for the entire week!

7) Kenny Loggins
One of the most iconic songs associated with aviation is Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins, so it makes sense that the show brought in the performer to sing on the Boeing Plaza stage Monday night. The performance began with Loggins’ new band, Blue Sky Riders, featuring Kenny Loggins, Georgia Middleman, and Gary Burr. The grounds were packed for the performance, including some spectators who waited the whole day to get a front row seat.

WB-57 - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014T-33s - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014

8) Strong Attendance
The final attendance numbers for AirVenture 2014 came in at over 500,000+ people and 10,000+ airplanes. With the addition of the USAF Thunderbirds to the Fri-Sun show, Saturday and Sunday saw a 20 percent increase in attendance which was very apparent to anyone who had been AirVenture before. There were 2,659 showplanes in attendance and 800 exhibitors. Visitors came from 69 countries outside the US and over 5,400 volunteers helped during the week.

Tinstix of Dynamite - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014C-17 Landing - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014

9) Matt Chapman/RC Formation Aerobatics
One of the most unique and surprisingly enchanting performances of AirVenture this year was the Matt Chapman/RC formation flight. While the name might conjure up visions of Matt flying on the wing of an RC aircraft, it was actually so much more. While Matt flew a basic aerobatic routine on the normal show line, an RC pilot flew a scale model of Matt’s Eagle 580 aircraft through the exact same maneuvers at the exact same time while on a show line much closer to the crowd. The end result was an incredible performance that will hopefully be replicated in the future.

10) One Week Wonder
In an embrace of EAA’s core mission of promoting homebuilt aircraft, the One Week Wonder project was organized for AirVenture. The challenge was to build an entire working aircraft within the one week span of the event. A large workspace was set up along the main avenue of the grounds with a large countdown clock ticking ominously on the wall. The aircraft, a Zenith CH 750 kit plane, arrived from the factory with no special provisions. A team of volunteers worked long hours through the week as a crowd watched, and many in the crowd were invited to help pull a rivet on the aircraft. Sure enough, on Sunday morning the aircraft taxied under its own power during the airshow as planned. It was inspected and went on to fly the next day. The paint scheme, which will be chosen by voters, will soon be applied to complete the aircraft.

C-17 and Fireworks - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014Gene Soucy Night Show - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014

11) Night Shows
For the second year in a row, AirVenture featured two night shows; one on Wednesday and one on Saturday. Featured flyers included Matt Younkin, Otto the Helicopter, Gene Soucy, Jerry Kerby, Team Aeroshell, and even the MV-22 Osprey. Kent Pietsch and TinStix featuring Skip Stewart and Melissa Pemberton also performed at twilight. Each show concluded with an amazing fireworks presentation, a perfect way to cap off the night. With immense crowd response over the last couple years, it seems safe to say that the twin night shows are here to stay!

GeeBee - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014MV-22 Night Show - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014

12) Gee Bee Racer
Back in February, there were talks about bringing the well-known Gee Bee back to air-worthiness following the death of Jim Moss, the owner of the reproduction 1934 Gee Bee QED. They succeeded and were able to bring the Gee Bee into the show, and were even able to fly Wednesday afternoon. The massive white and red aircraft certainly was one of the most popular sights in the Vintage aircraft section.

B-24 and Fireworks - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014_2SmallWarbird Formation - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014

13) Kyle Franklin’s Dracula
One year ago, Kyle Franklin attended AirVenture with his newly built Dracula biplane but was asked not to perform his act because it was “too new”. This year, Kyle flew several performances throughout the week in the amazing aircraft. The custom-built Demon-1 ‘Dracula’ features a 550 hp Pratt and Whitney R-985 radial engine, a 26 gallon fuel tank, and an impressively low 1,850 lbs empty weight. Much of the aircraft is made of carbon fiber composites, which helps allow a G-loading of up to 15Gs. Kyle has hinted at adding a jet engine to Dracula in the future, similar to the Jet Waco made famous by his father Jimmy Franklin and recently resurrected as the Jack Link’s Screamin’ Sasquatch.

14) OV-1 Mohawk “Super Demo”
Friday afternoon was set to be one of the large warbird shows for the week, but with storms approaching all of the aircraft checked in one by one to cancel their participation. With such priceless aircraft and such iffy weather, no one can blame them. Only one aircraft remained willing to fly; the OV-1 Mohawk. Since a huge amount of pyrotechnics had been set up in anticipation of numerous warbird flybys, they told the pilot that they’d be shooting it all during his flight, and the “Super Demo” was born. The flying was fairly uneventful, although the Mohawk showed off some surprising maneuverability while rolling in. The explosions were incredible, with many loud blasts going off on every pass. It was 45 minutes worth of pyro compressed into just 10 minutes, all with an aircraft not typically associated with massive amounts of firepower (although as the announcers pointed out it is capable of carrying ordinance). For an aircraft that often gets overshadowed by the more famous P-51s and B-25s in the lineup, it was a glorious moment to shine.

MV-22 Osprey - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014Night Show Wall of Fire - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014

15) Same Oshkosh, and that’s a good thing
What brings people back to EAA AirVenture every year is that there’s always something to expect and something you never expected. No matter how long you’ve been around aviation, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll see something you’ve never seen before at AirVenture. Sitting on the tram riding from one end of the runway to the other and passing by thousands of aircraft, you will speak to friendly strangers who will talk about how this is their 30th year at AirVenture. You will see more planes at the airport than cars in the parking lot. There will rarely be a moment when you don’t hear that sound of an engine. It will become an instinct to look both ways before crossing because there might be a plane taxiing. A 4-ship formation of L-39s, P-51s, T-28s, etc. will make passes and land without any announcement. Even if it’s the 100th airshow you’ve ever attended, you will see an airplane you’ve never seen before. A formation of 20 T-28s will fly under a formation of 20 more T-34s. At any other airshow, that would be a unique experience. At AirVenture it’s normal, and that’s what the AirVenture experience is all about.

– Patrick Barron, Ryan Sundheimer, Ricky Matthews

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