More than twenty pilots who fly at local airports attended the world’s most famous airshow at Oshkosh, Wisconsin last week.
Airventure 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of the Experimental Aviation Association’s (EAA) gathering at the small Midwest city whose airport control facility boasts of being the “world’s busiest control tower” during the week-long event.
More than 600,000 people pass through the gates into the facility that hosts over 10,000 airplanes of all types.
Many attendees pitch tents and camp under the wings of their small planes, while others park recreational vehicles (RVs) in campsites. Hotels are full for at least 50 miles in all directions, as are the University of Wisconsin dormitories in the host city.
On hand for what they calculate as about their 30th time at Oshkosh were Henry and Peggy Hartman of Hanover. Henry is longtime president of the local EAA chapter 1041, otherwise known as the Gettysburg Barnstormers.
Asked why they return year after year to Oshkosh, Henry said, “Well, it’s all things aviation, of course, but it’s also the people.”
Friends made over the years reunite annually to catch up on each other’s lives and discuss new developments in the world of flying.
“We have friends from all over the world,” Hartman said, pointing to the fact the Oshkosh event draws flyers and aviation enthusiasts from around the globe.
In 2018 there were nearly 3,000 foreign visitors from 87 nations. A special International Tent is a gathering spot for pilots and their passengers where one can overhear conversations in many languages.
For years, the Hartmans have been among the 5,000 volunteers who keep things flowing smoothly as the Wisconsin city is inundated with visitors.
Henry has helped brief pilots who are about to depart OSH (the airport identifier assigned to Oshkosh by the Federal Aviation Administration) on procedures that keep them safe and separated from other aircraft on the ground and in the air.
To handle the beehive of traffic swarming around the airport during Airv5enture, seasoned air traffic controllers are brought in from high-density facilities like Chicago O’Hare, Atlanta, Denver and JFK airports.
The 40-person team in the tower this year was headed by Operations Manager Erin Rausch. She said of the complex job of handling thousands of aircraft at both Oshkosh and nearby Fond du Lac, “We have to work together as a team and really rely on one another. There’s a lot of trust involved and just a lot of communication between the teams.”
While taking care of the thousands of pilots and planes that traverse the airspace is critical at the Oshkosh event, equally important is caring for those who are on the ground.
For her many years serving in the “Kiddie Kockpit” where parents find respite with their youngsters from the often-sweltering midsummer weather, Peggy Hartman received an Airventure Oshkosh Service Award this year.
Aviation is a family affair for the Hartmans. Henry and their son Dale are pilots who fly out of the Gettysburg airport. Both Dale and his sister Juliana attended Air Academy at Oshkosh in their younger years.
Over the past 25 years, more than 7000 teenagers have been introduced to opportunities in aviation at weeklong orientation events held in a spacious modern lodge on the EAA grounds.
The Gettysburg Barnstormers group has sponsored 30 young people during the past 15 years, paying all expenses for their attendance at Air Academy.
The Academy participants are provided with an overview of all aspects of aviation and are given flights with seasoned volunteer flight instructors.
They also join the throngs who watch the daily airshows featuring modern and vintage aircraft as well as some of the world’s most renowned aerobatic pilots like Sean D. Tucker and Patty Wagstaff.
Funds for the attendees are raised by means of the Barnstormer’s spring and fall fly-in/drive-in breakfasts held at the Gettysburg airport. This fall’s breakfasts will be held on the weekend of September 28-29.
Currently heading a team of volunteer supporters of aspiring young aviators is Jeff Skiles, who was introduced as “one of only two pilots ever to land a passenger jet aircraft on the Hudson River.”
Skiles became famous as first officer or copilot on the U.S. Air jet captained by “Sully” Sullenberger as the two safely made an emergency landing on the river when both engines stopped after ingesting birds on takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia airport.
In a speech attended by hundreds of pilots who give free “Young Eagles” introductory flights to acquaint youth with flying, Skiles thanked the mentors for “opening up a world of possibilities.”
Since its inception in 1992, the Young Eagles program has provided a sky-opening experience to more than 2 million potential pilots.
Skiles spoke of the current and growing shortage of pilots, with estimates that more than 120,000 U.S. airline cockpit spots will be available to aspiring aviators over the next decade or so. Worldwide demands for pilots are expected to exceed 600,000 by 2035.
Among local pilots who have flown young eagles is David Speranza of Gettysburg. Speranza is a Wellspan physician who practices medicine when he’s not flying his Cirrus single-engine aircraft. Speranza is intrigued by new technology devices that enhance safety and efficiency in the skies. He spoke of the delight in having a chance to meet and talk with “some of the people who actually designed the equipment” during this year’s Airventure.
M-ASA Members also active
Speranza echoed the appreciation expressed by many of the Barnstormers, and also local glider pilots who fly at the Mid-Atlantic Soaring Association (M-ASA) airport near Fairfield, for the hundreds of informative seminars and lectures offered each year at Oshkosh.
One of the most fascinating talks this year, in which we observe the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, was presented by M-ASA member William Barry who is chief historian at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
A former U.S. Air Force officer and professor at the Air Force Academy, Barry did his doctoral work at Oxford University on the space race between the U.S. and Soviet Union in the 1960’s.
Barry described the struggle to gain access to critical documents housed in archives in Russia. While initially welcomed in one facility, he said, “when they discovered my U.S. Air Force background, I was escorted to the door.”
His conclusions as to why the U.S. succeeded in landing astronauts on the moon and the Soviets failed include our nation’s attainment of superior computer technology and the fact “the Soviets started too late and tried to do too much.”
Barry also believes the U.S. free enterprise system, wherein thousands of individuals in hundreds of companies pooled their innovations in the Apollo project, was superior to the highly state-controlled Soviet system.
While the history of aviation is featured at the EAA Museum at Oshkosh where Barry delivered his talk to a standing-room-only crowd, glimpses into the future of flying also attracts many to Airventure.
Among those on the forefront of new aircraft design is M-ASA member James “Buddy” Denham. Denham works for a small company experimenting with high-tech innovations that promise to take aviation to a whole new level.
While Denham cannot reveal details of the project, he assured fellow M-ASA members joining him for lunch at Oshkosh that the next generation of flying machines will be “really amazing.”
For more information on the Gettysburg EAA Chapter, visit its website: https://1041.eaachapter.org. And to learn more about M-ASA, which will welcome area residents to an Open House on Saturday, August 24th, see: www.midatlanticsoaring.org.