The Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is kind of a big deal for pilots.
The weeklong event takes place in July, and for that span of time little Whittman Regional Airport becomes the busiest airport in the world. Thousands of pilots fly in for the AirVenture, with many of them pitching tents and camping next to their airplanes in the fields around the airport. The bustling grounds inside the gates become a mecca for pilots and aviation enthusiasts. Vendors sell all sorts of merchandise, including avionics, pilot gear, books and — yes — airplanes. Hundreds of lectures and presentations on every aviation topic under the sun take place at the pavilions and halls across the venue. Airplanes crisscross the skies above, including aerobatic pilots tracing smoke trails and military jets that seem to rip the air apart as they make low-level passes during an airshow. You can buy all sorts of airplane parts in the air mart, wander down lines of P-51s at Fightertown, examine airplanes from the Golden Age of Aviation in the vintage section, stroll through a field of homebuilts, or walk beneath a B-29 on Boeing Plaza.
This is primarily an event for general aviation pilots, but there are always plenty of historic aircraft around. You can find them in the fields around the airport and see them flying overhead, the throaty roar of their rotary engines sounding like something from another era of aviation. Which, in fact, it is.
So when my friend Tom LeCompte invited me to fly out to the AirVenture with him in his 1962 Piper Comanche, how could I resist? Tom is not only an experienced pilot, he is also an airplane geek and a skilled writer. (His article about the airplane crash that killed singer Patsy Cline appeared in the Autumn 2022 issue of Aviation History. The fact that Cline was a passenger in a Piper Comanche like Tom’s is something I remained determined to forget.) Tom flew down from Massachusetts, picked me up at Capital City Airport in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, and we headed out on Sunday for Oshkosh. The following photo and videos will give you a taste of what we saw and experienced.
Watch the B-29 “Doc” fly over Wittman Airport
Check out the Mustangs at Fightertown
See an F-35 fly alongside a Skyraider and a Mustang
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