For those of you who are making your first trip to AirVenture, or your first return in many years, here are some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your visit.
Approximately 10,000 pilots fly in to Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH) during the week of AirVenture and special procedures are in place. The 32-page EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014 notam is available online—and it is required. Additional information and tips are listed on the AirVenture website and we strongly recommend you read through all of it.
Flying in with this level of traffic and so many special procedures in place can be daunting, but I've never heard from a pilot who didn't feel it was one of the great experiences of their flying career.
If you are driving in—even from a short distance—allow plenty of time for your commute to the AirVenture grounds. Pay attention to signs and follow directions from law enforcement. Once you get to the turn-off for the grounds, you may think you are home free. Think again; this is where the snarl really begins.
Knowing which of the four lanes to get into and which parking lot to choose can be hard to figure out the first time, so check out the grounds and parking lot maps ahead of time and try to decide where you will park. Have a full tank of gas and a full ration of patience on board and you'll get parked and be on your way to the show in (relatively) short order.
What to pack
Comfort is key. People unfamiliar with Wisconsin summers may be surprised that a location so far north can have such hot summers. Last year was an exceptional year with good, cool weather throughout the week, but generally speaking late July and early August are hot and muggy, and thunderstorms are not uncommon.
Bring comfortable walking shoes with a sturdy sole. Take it from me that flats with thin soles and flip-flops won't fly—not for the miles of walking you'll be doing. Bring an umbrella, a rain poncho and sunscreen; you'll also need bug spray for those evening events. Shorts and T-shirts are the uniform of the day and be sure to bring a hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the heat and sun. If your health requires you to frequently stop and rest, you might consider packing a lightweight foldable chair or stool.
David Hipschman, Cessna Flyer contributing editor and past Director of Publications at EAA stresses: "Hydration, hydration, hydration." Be sure to bring or buy plenty of water. He also recommends downloading a radar app to your smartphone so you can see the thunderstorms coming.
What to see, and getting around
There is so much to see and do at Oshkosh that it's impossible to include it all in this article—and even if we tried, you would have trouble getting to it all.
There are a couple of ways to approach a trip to AirVenture. One is to rely on serendipity: wander the grounds see what you can see and follow where the whim takes you. The other is to map out a plan of attack for what to see and when. The second approach is key if there is something you absolutely have to see, or a product you need to buy. Otherwise it is so easy to get distracted by this warbird here, that new gizmo there... and next thing you know, the day is over and you never got to your "planned" destination.
There are trams that run throughout the grounds and buses that connect to the more remote locations.
Here are a few destinations and events that we recommend you check out, but go to AirVenture.org for a full listing.
Exhibit hangars A-D: Here's where you'll find all of your favorite aviation vendors (including CFA, of course!) and some vendors that will be brand-new to you. Many companies introduce new products at AirVenture, so it's a great time to see what's new, and companies new and old often will offer show specials. You'll get a chance to chat with vendor reps face-to-face, and snag some deals as well. Plan to spend a lot of time in the hangars.
Phillips 66 Square: There are always fascinating static displays in this spot just off the flight line. In years past they've had WhiteKnightTwo, Virgin Mothership Eve, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and a B-17 open for tours.
Airshows: AirVenture has daily (and some night) airshows that you'll really want to see. Here's what contributing editor Dan Pimentel has to say about them: "I made the mistake one year of scheduling a forum presentation in the afternoon. Of the 160 chairs in the tent, two were filled... one with a client of mine, and the other with someone who admitted to being lost and tired.
"It was because I was competing with that afternoon's flying circus, featuring the most incredible acts ever to fly aerobatics... the biggest names on the circuit bringing their 'A' games to 'the box' over KOSH.
One time I saw Patty Wagstaff do a maneuver that to this day defies explanation using mere words.
"Each year, the acts get better, the planes get faster, and even in the scorching heat of a Wisconsin summer, I will cherish every second I get to spend with my toes a silly millimeter from that big orange line you absolutely cannot cross without the Flight Line girls on scooters busting your chops like you were a Minnesota Vikings fan at a Packers home game."
Floatplane Base: The Seaplane Base on Lake Winnebago is a great place to visit and grab some shade and lake breezes while watching floatplanes splash down. Folks I've talked to say that a trip to the seaplane base is a nice break from the hubbub of the rest of the show.
What to eat
EAA is constantly improving the AirVenture experience and one area they've concentrated on in the last couple of years is food service. This year they have upped the ante by bringing on many new food vendors.
Ryan Rasmussen, EAA's Food and Beverage Manager, explains that EAA decided to focus on working with local businesses to support the local community and bring local flavors to the show.
The International Marketplace which debuted last year will return again this year featuring food from Germany, Ireland, Italy, Asia, Mexico as well as a Taste of America featuring Wisconsin-style BBQ. "Our mission is to provide good quality foods for our guests with an eye to providing a better price point," said Rasmussen.
I, for one, am looking forward to sampling some of the new offerings, but I will also make a trip to one of my personal favorite eating spots—the Sacred Heart hamburger stand which is located just outside the main gate. The prices are good, the money goes to a good cause, and the lines are often (but not always) shorter than some of the other booths.
For those who are looking for something off the grounds, our contributing editors overwhelmingly recommend Ardy & Ed's Drive-In in downtown Oshkosh.
As far as camping at AirVenture, you might want to try it. "I love that OSH immerses you in flying. This is why you camp," says Karen Hocking, who flies with her husband Terry as Cherokee Lead for the Cherokees to Oshkosh Mass Arrival. "You go to sleep with people who are as excited as you are; you wake up to airplane noise, the smell of coffee and food cooking—and people as excited about planes as you are."
Hocking continues, "It is not the camping on the hard ground with the airplane, or the toilets, or the heat, rain or cold that I embrace, it is being with total strangers and feeling like a family for a week." (And this is coming from a person who typically describes "roughing it" as having to walk outside from the hotel to the restaurant!)
"OSH is a community unto itself that everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime," she says. "Hopefully it will call you to come back year after year like it does for so many of us."
Apps and Internet
The AirVenture app will be available early July and is a fantastic tool for finding out what's going on and scheduling the events you want to attend. If you are on Facebook, you can follow AirVenture for more news and information; the Twitter hashtags for those of you in the Twitterverse include #AirVenture, #Oshkosh2014 and #Osh2014.
I hope you are able to attend AirVenture this year. It really is a not-to-be-missed event. Be sure to stop by the booth to say hi to the Cessna Flyer staff. If you're there early in the week, you'll see me drinking coffee out of my porcelain mug. Bring your cup along, and we can toast to 18 years—and counting!
Jennifer Dellenbusch is president of the Cessna Flyer Association. Send questions or comments to .
Flying Your Airplane to Oshkosh
Driving In to AirVenture
AirVenture Air Shows
Oshkosh Seaplane Base