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AirVenture Oshkosh 2016 In Photos

I’ll admit up front. The word “special” is overused. Is every Super Bowl special? What about every Jason Bourne movie, every opening at the Met or every Indy 500? Even hardcore enthusiasts of those events would admit that some are way more special than others, and that sometimes there’s a real stinker, one that’s downright pedestrian by any standard. Yawn and move on.

What’s the best military precision aerobatic team in the world? That’s a question sure to start a fight, but no one would argue that the Snowbirds put on a spectacular show everywhere they go, including Oshkosh. Photo by Jessica Voruda

So what about AirVenture? This annual weeklong celebration of all things aviation, and then some, from foot-launched ultralights to massive military transports—is every year a special year, or are there some forgettable editions, too?

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TOP: The in-development Airbus E-Fan. Surprisingly, Airbus seems to be approaching the E-Fan not purely as an R&D project, but as a head start on commercial electrics. Photo by Robert Goyer. ABOVE: The C5 Galaxy transport makes a convenient if somewhat expensive shelter from a midweek rainstorm. Photo by Robert Goyer

You’re probably guessing already that this year’s show comes down in the special category, and you’re right, but for reasons that are both personal and fleeting.

This was my 25th Oshkosh (the last many have been branded as AirVenture, a name I’ve come to like), and while there has been one major downer of a show—several years back now when EAA was figuring out its future direction (it seems to have gotten that part right)—every year the show is a special one. There are good reasons for that, ones that are directly related to the thousands of hours EAA staff puts in getting great airplanes and great acts to show up at Wittman Field.

AirVenture had lots of beautiful homebuilts both old and new. This pretty, big-tired Rans Courier looks ready to go flying. Photo by Jessica Voruda

This year the star of the show was without doubt the Martin Mars water bomber, which filled up the sky several days during the show, showing what the pinnacle of a certain kind of aircraft development looks like. In this case, it was awe-inspiring. Literally. Mouths were agape as the giant bomber passed by, dumping its 7,200-gallon load of Lake Winnebago water on the runway—yes, it’s true that a lot of fish had to be picked up; they gave their finny lives for our entertainment. Sad, but I’m hoping they were ultimately tasty.

 

The giant Martin Mars water bomber moored at nearby Lake Winnebago, but ventured over Wittman Field almost daily to fly by and drop a giant load of water to the delight of showgoers.
Photo by Jessica Voruda

Every year is different, and that’s part of the big message. If you missed the Mars, it’s likely that you really missed it, like, for good. The chances of it coming back are pretty slim. It’s enormously expensive to fly and maintain, and it’s for sale, as well, with an asking price of $3 million.

TOP: One of our favorite displays: Diamond made sure that its pretty twin had great visibility. Photo by Robert Goyer. ABOVE: The Embraer Phenom 100 is normally powered by a Pratt & Whitney turbofan engine, but this one appears to be the exception. We’re pretty sure this is a flux capacitor of some kind. Photo by Robert Goyer

In other years we’ve seen similar one-of-kind appearances. Even the two- or three- or four-of-a-kind showings can be special—we’ll never witness Concorde, its long nose adroop, touching down, tires smoking on contact, as it settles down on the East/West runway at KOSH.

TOP: It’s not always easy to do, but pilots who can get away from the show for a few hours can enjoy spectacular low and slow flying. Here, an AirCam demo pilot takes in the view. Photo by Jessica Voruda. ABOVE: Fireworks and airplanes proved again to be a powerful combination. Spectacular night airshows on Wednesday and Saturday delighted record crowds. Photo by Jessica Voruda

It’s the way it is at OSH. Planes, pilots, achievements and history move at a meandering, weeklong pace through the grounds at Wittman Field, a summer wind composed of time, meaning and memory that has never been like this before and will never be the same again.

We spotted virtual reality in several locations, including at Honda Aircraft, where airplane nuts could “tour” the interior of the HondaJet without leaving their seats. Photo by Robert Goyer

We say hello each year to old friends and goodbye to those who will never return again. That greatest generation of men and women who fought the air war in distant skies are gray by now, those of them who remain, but the planes they flew, today painstakingly restored and maintained, motor through free skies here. They are a ghostly testament to a time that still seems like yesterday to so many here each summer. Oshkosh is all about remembering and honoring.

A quartet of planes flown by the Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team paints the sky during the daily airshow. These are Canadian-built versions of the North American AT-6. Photo by Jessica Voruda

So, is every AirVenture special? You bet. And maybe that’s because every year the giant show comes to life anew, as though fully composed, a million moving elements, many of them airborne, woven together like a living tapestry of where we’ve been with life in the air, where we are now and where we’re going.

The owners of an eclectic mix of homebuilts, classics and good old run-of-the-mill singles settle in to their tents for the evening. Photo by Jessica Voruda

It can’t help but be special. And we can’t help but look on in awe.

A view of the Oshkosh grounds on Friday. At center is the ultralight strip. The shot, by the way, was taken from the observation window of a Boeing B-29 while doing a flyover. Photo by Robert Goyer

The Boeing B-29 “Fifi” was at AirVenture Oshkosh 2016. Take an exclusive look inside now!

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