Every July, hundreds of thousands of people flock to the middle of Wisconsin for the Experimental Aircraft Association's AirVenture, a combination trade show, air show, and party for aviators and people who just like looking at cool planes. As its name suggests, EAA's main mission is to promote so-called experimental aircraft — typically small planes that hold between one and four people and can often be built in a garage — but AirVenture brings out everything from helicopters to airliners and fighter jets.
It's hard to fully explain why you'd want to walk around a rural Midwestern airport in sweltering heat for a week without actually experiencing it yourself, but it helps to see the breadth of flying machines you encounter there. Here are just a few of the countless aircraft you run into while strolling across Oshkosh's Wittman Regional Airport during AirVenture, the event that the EAA bills "the world's greatest aviation celebration."
- An FG-1D variant of the beautiful Corsair, a fighter-bomber that first saw service in World War II. Corsairs are easily identified by the bends in their wings, designed to allow a relatively short landing gear.
- Launched in 1940, the Ercoupe is notable for its simplified operation: the rudder is automatically applied when you bank the aircraft, rather than using separate rudder pedals. It was advertised as needing "no footwork" to fly, but the lack of rudder control makes it tricky to land in a strong crosswind.
- Chicago-based Howard made a number of beautiful small aircraft in the ’30s and ’40s, this DGA-15 being one of them.
- Gee Bees, racing planes of the ’20s and ’30s, are known for their enormous engines and almost comical dimensions. The Super Q.E.D. II is a replica of the Q.E.D., the last aircraft Gee Bee made before the company folded.
- The unusual Martin WB-57 is a high-altitude research variant of the B-57 bomber. They were mostly retired from military service 30 years ago, but NASA keeps three around.
- Thanks to two giant turboprops that rotate for vertical takeoffs, the V-22 Osprey is one of the most instantly recognizable aircraft in the world.
- The two-place Legend, with design elements that recall the P-51 Mustang, is said to be the fastest single-engine turboprop aircraft in the world.
- The USAF Thunderbirds scheduled two appearances for the show, but ended up performing several additional times as they scouted the field in preparation for their main routine.
- A B-17 Flying Fortress overhead may have been a terrifying sight 70 years ago, but now, it's just one of the many classic warbirds on display at the show.
- AirVenture 2014 marked the first public appearance by the production version of Honda's HondaJet.
- The Piaggio P180 Avanti II looks fast, and it is: it cruises 402 knots (463 mph).
- Red Bull's modified MBB Bo 105 helicopter debuted as the only helicopter in the world to fly an aerobatic routine. Seeing a chopper fly loops and rolls is odd, to say the least.
- Two Bell AH-1 Cobras were present at the show, participating in demonstrations of aircraft that flew in the Vietnam War.
- A rare Swearingen SX-300, a high-performance kit aircraft of the 1980s.