OSHKOSH (NBC 26) — Sunday officially kicked off the final day for EAA Airventure.
EAA’s CEO, Jack Pelton said the event turn-out was fantastic.
“All in all I would say a huge, huge success. 24 months is a long time to not do something that is as big and as complicated and has as many moving pieces as this has,” Pelton said.
After last year’s event was canceled due to COVID-19, the CEO said so many people came back excited as ever.
“It looks like we’re going to close 2021 with 608,000 people in attendance,” Pelton said. “Which while all that is not a record, to think of the situation that we’re still in with no international travelers, a lot of things going on in other parts of our own country that is prohibiting people to get around, it’s absolutely unbelievable and to see that it went off essentially flawlessly.”
In terms of other numbers, he said they had well over 5,000 volunteers and about 50,000 cars that were parked here during the week on their lots.
“We had 12,000 camping check-ins that occurred this week but probably when you ask how is the association doing and where are we. When you look at the long-term sustainability of EAA, it’s all about the membership. Our membership as of the 31st of July now stands at 244,648 members up from where we were in 2019,” Pelton said.
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With COVID-19 still on many people’s minds, Pelton said the changes they made as a result of the pandemic didn’t impact the event at all.
"I think the changes we had to make as far as the sanitization and disinfecting, the fact that we had to remove the concert and some other things, did not really deteriorate the venue and the event in people’s minds. I think those are nice additional features but there not necessary why people come,” Pelton said. “They’re here for the airplanes, they’re here for their friends and the people and they’re here to support the exhibitors.”
While thousands of people and planes showed up, he said this event turned out to be extremely safe with no injuries.
“We had over 22,000 aircraft movements that occurred during the week. And approximately about 16,000 almost 17,00 aircrafts parked on the ground with no airplanes being turned away. That was our initiative that we put in place a few years ago to ensure that we had ample acreage,”
And after a difficult nearly year and a half for many, EAA Airventure said they’re just so happy they were able to put this event back on and be there for the aviation community.
“We’re back, we’re finally back and this is going to be the beginning of the next resurgence of what Airventure is going to be. Everybody as far as the exhibitors had very very successful weeks," Pelton said.
2021 was the first year that youth under 18 were able to get free admission. He said he hopes this will continue for years to come as an effort to get more young people into aviation.
Watch below to get a feel for the event:
One Wisconsin High School is just one of a few across the nation that offers a youth aviation program for students.
These students from Hartford Union High school came out to EAA Airventure as part of their school’s youth aviation program.
“We’re working on building a plane and getting pilot licenses,” said Izzy, one of the students. "I really didn’t have very many friends that were older than me or interested in this field and now we’re just super close."
They’re preparing to be the future leaders of the aviation industry.
The teens starting out at such a young age. Their hope for Airventure is to gain a better perspective for the aviation industry.
“We went to a couple of talks which was super cool. Izzy and I actually got to see a presentation about a spy plane which was awesome, then we all went to a human factor session which was really cool, and now we’re going to check out this c-plane base,” said Rebecca Cowell.
“I myself I would go into human factor psychology and studying like aeronautics and aerospace specifically in the aviation industry. I feel like because of this a lot more of our group is going to look into that as potential routes to go," said Maggie Cowell.
To learn more about high school's youth aviation program, click here.
And for others attending Airventure, they’ve proven that age is simply a number.
No matter how old or young you are, you always have the ability to make your dream come true.
A man visiting from Poland said he has been wanting to drive planes since he was little.
“When I was young I’d always dream of being in the spider machines driving an airplane,” said the man.
And for another Appleton man, he hopes to return next year finally fulfilling his dream.
“I started getting my classes, so next year I will be a private pilot. My dream is I can get SR 22, that is my dream,” said the Appleton man.
For a staff sergeant in the Air Force leaves everyone with one piece of advice, that you can do it too.
“I just say chase what you can, follow your dream. It’s very attainable, it’s very fun and I don’t take any of my experience for granted,” said Jacob Mundell.