Thursday, November 12, 2009

A new countdown, a new list

We spent much of the fall planning “what’s next” for AirVenture site improvements and enhancements. While the list isn’t nearly as long or extensive as what you saw for last summer’s event, it’s still pretty significant and you’ll notice it on the grounds in 2010.

One thing I like about this year’s to-do list is that nearly all the projects relate directly to making everyone’s experience at Oshkosh even better. As we go through the winter, I can give more detail on the projects, but let’s just run through the short list of what we’re planning before the end of next July:

Exhibit Hangar C expansion
-- We’re adding 18,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space to the north side of Hangar C
-- Adding indoor restrooms on the east side of Hangar C, which can be accessed from either the exhibit hangar or from outside

North 40 aircraft camping
-- Building a new shower building along the perimeter road, about halfway between North 40 registration and the current shower building. And yes, the new shower building will also have flush toilets!

Camp Scholler
-- Establishing about 250 electrical hook-up campsites in the area currently reserved for 24-hour generator use. Those sites will cost a little more, and a process for reserving them (either a lottery or other method) will be created in the near future.
-- Maintaining no-electricity areas in some of the traditional camping areas, such as Paul’s Woods and the 101 Woods

-- Expanding the north/south road between Exhibit Hangars B & D and extending it to Kilps Road, just north of Hangars A & C. This will allow a better, more efficient tram loop to be established that will include a stop at the new restrooms.
-- Chip-sealing roads in the Flymarket area, as well as major roads in Camp Scholler and Foundation Road near the Nature Center. This will help reduce the dust created by traffic and dry conditions.

IAC building
-- Constructing a porch addition on the south side of the IAC building to help support the aerobatic group’s forums during AirVenture

Wow. Along with all that, the Warbirds are currently considering several projects and enhancements in their area, too. Combined with the usual maintenance items, that should be enough to fill our lonely hours throughout the winter and spring. We’re eager to get started and show you the next stage of progress – even if over the winter, it means wearing everything we own to stay warm outside.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Taking a deep breath

Nearly two months have passed since AirVenture week. In case you ever thought that the grounds fold up and we all go into hibernation after the event, it’s actually a long way from that.

Almost immediately after AirVenture this year, we welcomed about 25,000 Pathfinders youth campers to the grounds for a week. If you thought it was a jammed scene during the fly-in inside Camp Scholler, it was REALLY crazy during that event (shown below), since people aren’t as familiar with the grounds.

This weekend, nearly 10,000 Boy Scouts will be using the grounds for a centennial camporee, while at the same time, we could have 100 semitrailers or more parking throughout the grounds in support of the Special Olympics “World’s Largest Truck Convoy” fundraiser. It’s just part of how the EAA grounds are used for both rental groups and community outreach efforts during the year. August and September are favorite vacation months around here too, of course, after the months of work gearing up for AirVenture.

What you’re really interested in, though, is “How did it go with the new site changes?” Overwhelmingly, I’d have to say great! The new walkways worked just as we hoped, and people really seemed to enjoy the new benches, the additional shade in some areas and so forth. By the way, the 100 benches throughout the grounds were so well-received that we have a commitment for 150 more of them. That’s good news.

I can say that with the increased attendance this year, it would have been much more difficult for people to move around if we hadn’t made the changes. One never knows how things will work until everybody arrives, but a large majority of people seemed very happy with the new configuration.

As with any new layout, there were a few things that we learned in 2009. Some places need more dumpsters. The new traffic loop created a couple of new bottlenecks to be solved, such as near the Red Barn store in Camp Scholler and near Theater in the Woods. The new flush toilets on the grounds created a demand for – you guessed it – more flush toilets.

We’ve been going through all the feedback and our own observations to make plans for 2010. In some ways, I wanted to get going right away on next year’s plans, because the past month has been about as perfect as one could want for outdoor work. But sometimes, you have to wait for the final decisions to be made. We are working on areas where some of the new grass that was planted needs a boost, with overseeding and aerating those areas.

We’re also studying what gravel roads should be paved for 2010. Traffic, dust problems and drainage are among the considerations when making those decisions. The projects for 2010 might not be as big as what we did for this year’s event, but we’re always hoping to make a step forward. The success of AirVenture this year will help us do that. Thanks again for reading, and we’ll stay in touch!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

As ready as we’re going to get…

It’s tough to believe opening day is just a week away. It’s been a full-out sprint over the past few weeks, trying to get all the last minute things completed. I heard that the first airplane camper arrived in the North 40 on Sunday, so it starts to become reality now.

The volunteers have really arrived in big groups over the past week as well. Area chairmen and other volunteers are now all over the grounds. It’s great to have that many helping hands, but each area always has last-minute needs that we try to meet. It’s everything from dumpsters to electrical outlets, a little chaos that you know is coming, even if you never quite get used to it.

Some of the things that were among the last big items to be placed were the two engine and nacelle markers at the Main Gate. It really gives the entrance a different look. One thing we’re adding this year are shuttles from the Orange Lot to save people steps and get them through the Main Gate efficiently. If you’re directed to that parking lot, you’ll note that vehicles will be parked first at the west end of the lot, which will allow better shuttle service.

The paving bricks were also set near the Brown Arch, so that refurbished gateway is ready for Opening Day next Monday. There are dedications for the Main Gate and the Brown Arch on Sunday afternoon (July 26), so if you’re on the grounds, stop on by.

As hard as we work to finish everything, there will be a few things that are “still in progress.” With the dry weather in July, the grass didn’t grow as rapidly as one would hope in a perfect world. There might be a few brown spots out there, but bear with us as the new look takes hold. And we hope we got the new benches in the right locations, that the flush toilets work exactly as hoped and all the new flight line traffic routes are flawless. We’ll take our best shot, and keep trying to improve from there.

There isn’t much time to think about what it’s been like for the last 11 months on the site, but when I do a couple of things come to mind. First, the sheer number of hard-working people – EAA staff, volunteers and contractors – that made it happen. The outside contractors, almost all from the local region, treated this as more than just another job. They had personal pride in this project, just as we’ve had.

Second is the sheer change that has taken place in less than a year. There is what you’ll see above the ground, but there’s at least as much that took place under the surface. The new look will require some adapting by all of us, but I really think you’ll like the end result. I’m told that additional information on future projects will be posted at the Welcome Center near AeroShell Square, so stop in there when you’re at Oshkosh.

Finally, I can’t believe that this is the 27th update I’ve made about the grounds since late last year. When I started, I wasn’t sure what I would talk about, but we certainly found enough to mention over the months. I’ll circle back after the event to give you an update.
I hope you enjoy the improvements, and we’ll see you at Oshkosh!

Friday, June 26, 2009

One month to go

As of today, there are 30 days to go until opening day at AirVenture. That’s exciting and scary at the same time. It’s exciting because so much has happened on the site since last year that we’re eager to show off all the new things. It’s scary because there’s always a little voice in the back of your head wondering, “What did I forget?”

It’s felt like AirVenture this week on the grounds, too. Temps in the high 80s and high humidity have been rough on outside workers, but great for growing grass.

Camp Scholler opened today, with several dozen campers at the gate this morning when we began taking camping registrations. Some of them will stake out their campsites and head back home for a few weeks (yes, they do pay the daily fee for the site from the time they claim it), while others are coming in and will spend the next month volunteering on the grounds. Those people do everything from plant flowers to drive tractors, and we’re happy to have each and every one of them here.

We also have work groups from three EAA chapters here this weekend. It’s especially fun to take these people around the site and show them what’s new. I often get some good ideas from the members, since they look at the site from the outside as a visitor.

Last week the EAA staff took tram rides around the site to get an up-close look at the changes. You would think that being a staff member would make it easy to know what is going where as it happens, but each employee is so focused on their own areas that it’s tough to get a regular view of the big picture. Since staffers are EAA members, too, they have many of the same questions that attendees have about the changes.

If you’d like to see a consolidated guide to the site changes, you can download a Quick Reference Guide we put together. Just go to It’s the same reference guide that the EAA staff and volunteer chairmen are receiving.

Pretty soon, we’ll start to see the tents arrive and we’ll discover how everything will fit together. The site takes on a whole new look once the tents start to go up, giving more the appearance that most everybody sees when they’re at Oshkosh.

One month to go. If we pack a million things into each of those 30 days, I think we can make it!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Always something new…

It’s amazing at how fast the grass is growing now that the sun is out. Many of the areas that were brown just a few weeks ago are now very green. A few more sunny days will help firm the ground. We may even have to mow a few of the new grass areas before AirVenture starts!

We’ve been working on another big project this week, putting a stormwater drainage system beneath the big, new Honda exhibit. It’s a big one – about 21,000 square feet – and it’s located to the east of its former location north of AeroShell Square. By now, though, we’ve dug so many holes and spread so much stone and soil that we’re actually getting pretty good at it.

I had reporter Jeff Bollier from the Oshkosh Northwestern tag along with me one day this week as well. The newspaper is doing a story about the changes to the site, including the “green” initiatives for stormwater movement that are unusual for this area. It’s an interesting story to tell and I hope people take note of it when they arrive.

It’s really odd to see the grounds without the old control tower in place. Now that the rubble has been hauled away and the grass is growing where the hill used to be, it’s hard to tell that the tower was ever there at all. The parking lot of the old tower still exists, and the FLYING Magazine pavilion will be moving there for 2009, since the EAA Sweepstakes building is now on its former corner lot.

One other addition you’ll notice this year. A very generous EAA support, Craig Willan, has committed to supply 250 all-weather concrete benches on the grounds as we update things. The first 100 benches will be here for this year’s event. That means we’ll get to do some extra weight lifting before July 27, but I think you’ll like the extra rest spots throughout the grounds.

One thing that occurs to me is that I’ve been a part of the EAA scene for more than 20 years now, and I’ve watched the site evolve from basically a summer-season tent city to something much more permanent. What you’ll see this year is just another step forward.

Two weeks from today -- Camp Scholler opens!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Filling in the gaps

For the first time, I can finally say that most of the major construction, earth-moving, and building placement projects are finished on the site. I would say that 98 percent of the landscaping is completed and grass seed is planted. Now all we need is for the grass to grow! Some of the grass that we planted two weeks ago is starting to sprout. Now, sunshine and soft rain is all we need to turn things green.

Some of the little projects still remain, such as electrical work on some of the buildings, landscaping in spot areas, and concrete pads in the food courts and exhibit areas. There are plenty of little details to finish and to talk about in the coming weeks, though.

I've included a few photos taken over the past week on the site, too. Click on the photos for a larger view. First, here's a view of the old control tower site looking southwest toward the FAA building:

Also, here's a photo looking south on Knapp Street Road, basically from the southwest side of the forums area:

Last weekend, we had more than 80 volunteers on the site. These were EAA members and Chapters from throughout the Midwest and we’re always happy to have them here. This energetic group was all over the grounds, doing things such as building picnic tables for the food courts, putting up split-rail fence at the new Bus Park, and painting some of the relocated buildings. Some of the volunteers did some retro-fitting in the volunteer bunkhouse and the Vintage Aircraft Association volunteers were doing work on their new type club/workshop building. We really appreciate their efforts and hope to see more out here in the next two months.

A couple more photos: Here one looking north along Wittman Road, the road that runs parallel to the flight line. Note how different it looks without the old control tower, which used to be just to the left of the small, light-blue building:

And finally, here's a picture taken along one of the new pedestrian thoroughfares, looking northwest toward the bus stop and the Sacred Heart Church food stand. You can see where we're hoping to see some grass grow very soon:

One of the fun things last weekend was taking the volunteers on a site tour, so they could see the changes for themselves. The most common reaction? “Wow…”

The volunteers saw that a lot of things had changed, but they’re all looking forward to AirVenture to see the final result. Some of the comments I received were that the grounds really seemed to open up after the Main Gate; that it’s going to be much easier to get to the north end of the grounds, to places such as the forum pavilions, homebuilt exhibits and the warbirds area. And EVERYBODY liked the flush toilet idea!

All of that was good to hear, because many of these volunteers have been coming to Oshkosh for 10, 20 or even 30 years and more. To many of them, it’s their site and they take great pride in it. To hear positive comments about all the work was really appreciated. Hope you’ll think the same when you get to Oshkosh this summer!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It’s a frenzy!

That’s how I describe what’s going on so far this month. It seems that my only chance to sit down is when I’m driving the truck from one place to another to check on projects. The weather is still cool for May, but at least we’ve had plenty of sunny days to get work done.

The pavers have finished putting down the porous asphalt on the new pedestrian walkways from the Main Gate to Knapp Street Road. They have a few finishing touches to complete this week, such as installing the biofilters at the edges of those walkways.

The landscapers have been working hard in the areas around the exhibit hangars and the new Flymarket location, just southwest of Exhibit Hangar D. They’ll also be working this week in the former Flymarket location as that area evolves into its new uses.

Electricians are connecting power to the relocated buildings throughout the grounds. That includes such areas as the Partner Resource Center, Main Gate admissions building and others.

We’re also pinpointing areas for the five wayfinding towers that you’ll see on the grounds this year. I’ve included an artist’s rendering of what the concept looks like right now. These will be very useful for people to get information on directions, activities and other essential needs (a larger view is available at

There’s plenty of curiosity about the new site, even on the EAA staff, so I’ve been spending some of my time telling everyone to please limit visits to the site right now. There is a lot of fresh asphalt and plantings that we don’t want damaged early, so everything is in order when everyone arrives at Oshkosh in just a couple of months!

For right now, though, it’s back to the truck, since there’s always another project to check…

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Settling things

Mud. After nearly three inches of rain over the past week, we’re dealing with ground that is not very sturdy in the prime areas where we’re looking to place building and the like. It’s been back and forth between rain and dry over the last month, so hopefully we’ll get things on a more consistent level in the coming days. In places where grass exists, we’re starting to see things green up a little.

We are moving some buildings around, though. The Partner Resource Center, which is the facility used by exhibitors, advertisers and other sponsors, is heading to its new location a few hundred feet east of its previous location north of Exhibit Hangar C.

In other areas, footings are being poured for buildings. The phone company is here connecting the hundreds of phone lines that exist right in the Exhibit Hangar area. Water supplies are being run to the food locations, and grading contractors are getting ready to put down the porous asphalt that will be on the angled walkways starting at the Main Gate.

Even the landscapers are ready, although the rain has slowed their ability to get things grass and shrubs started on the grounds.

H.G. Frautschy notes that a couple of administrative structures in back of the Vintage Aircraft Red Barn have gone away. The small computer ops building has been demolished, since those functions will be in the new Vintage hangar. Also, the while trailer that served as an administrative office will be rolled away from that area.

In Warbirds, we brought down a small building near the warbirds tower to make room for the new pavilion building that I described a couple of months back.

One final thing that you’ll notice on the grounds this year are what we’re calling “wayfinding stations.” These towers will include maps and information to better move around the grounds. We’ll start with five towers in strategic places on the site. One will be located at the EAA Welcome Center just west of AeroShell Square. Others will be on the flight line, at Warbirds, Homebuilt Aircraft area, Vintage and Ultralights. We’re doing the final tweaks to the design right now, and I’m eager to show you what they’ll look like in the next couple of weeks.

We’re inside three months to opening day, so things are definitely speeding up here in Oshkosh!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Dust is Flying!

Remember all the worries I had a few weeks back about how wet and soggy and mushy the grounds were? Scratch that. The weather has been beautiful this week and the grounds dried like there was a sponge 50 feet below the surface sucking all the surface moisture away.

The great weather (maybe 70 degrees today!) means we can get to landscaping chores. This week we’ve been spending time near AeroShell Square, in areas near the Ford Pavilion and other locations. We’re also working in the homebuilt area and back toward the Main Gate.

(One side note – With the demise of Eclipse Aviation, we’re getting questions about what will be there in 2009. EAA’s business development guru, Jeff Kaufman, said that Hawker Beechcraft will be taking over that area this year, with others sliding into their old position just west of AeroShell Square).

This weekend we’ll welcome 15 volunteers from University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s “Hands On Oshkosh” volunteer program, who will be here to help with fine landscaping work, such as around electrical pedestals and the like. Those areas have to be done by hand since large machines could accidentally bump the pedestals and cause all kinds of other problems. We really appreciate their time and efforts.

Next week we’ll have some of the contractors on the grounds, fine-grading roads and doing the prep work for such projects as asphalt on the road edges, biofilters and all that.

One other question that we had this week was regarding Aeromart. Yes, Aeromart will be back in 2009, but in a new location. It will be adjacent to the new Flymarket area, just to the south and west of Exhibit Hangar D. Everyone who enjoyed that aircraft parts consignment area can stop by again this year. EAA Chapter 252 from here in Oshkosh will be operating the area.

Well, since the weather is this nice, it’s time to get back to work!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Springing Up in Vintage

We have the opportunity to sneak in one more posting before the Easter weekend, so Vintage Aircraft Association executive director H.G. Frautschy has some news about the new type club/workshop hangar in that area...
Hi, everyone. The exterior of the new Vintage Hangar is about 95 percent done, with the sliding doors hung, the exterior windows and passage doors installed, and ¾ of the roof shingles installed. The biggest news of the week was the pouring and finishing of the concrete floor in the hangar, nearly 7,000 square feet of slab poured over the course of two days. Here are a few photos of the work done to date.

With the doors hung, the opening is 40 feet, with a pair of sliding door panels.

Below is the view looking southeast, with the conference/hospitality room on the right. There’s still a bit of snow mixed in that gravel, grass and dirt pile in the foreground.

The concrete coated beadboard outer sheathing on the Hangar is accented by poly-plastic trim, all of which will be painted in the coming months. There’s still plenty of volunteer work party tasks to be accomplished in the coming months!

Here is an aerial shot courtesy of EAA’s Chief Photographer, Jim Koepnick. It certainly drives home the great impact this building will have on the overall look and feel of the VAA area. The new building is at the lower center of the photo, with the VAA Red Barn to its right and Theater in the Woods above it.

The interior of the hangar is now just about ready for the volunteer corps, thanks to the installation of the new concrete slab. The surface finish is smooth with Fibermesh in the concrete, giving the floor a nice finish for walking, while enhancing its resistance to cracking.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

End of a Towering Era

As these photos show, the demolition has begun on the old control tower at Wittman Regional Airport. It’s kind of a melancholy day, since this structure was an icon for so many years here at Oshkosh.

We at EAA have been asked many times over the past few months if there could have been a different outcome than tearing down the tower. The short answer is no, but let me walk through the timeline so there’s a better understanding of why:

When Winnebago County (which owns the airport – EAA simply leases the property for the event) contracted to build a new control tower, the construction company also received the demolition and disposal rights for the old tower. After the new tower was completed, the construction company officially owned the old tower.

It took more months than expected to move the remainder of the FAA equipment out of the old tower. After that, though, the way was cleared to bring down the old tower.

Was there a possibility that the old tower could be preserved by EAA or the county? Even if either party had the desire to do so, the old tower would not have been kept as simply an empty shrine. And there were very costly items that would have been needed in any restoration. For instance, there was no elevator or handicapped access to the tower, which would be required if it would welcome visitors or staff. The heating and ventilating system had been makeshift for many years, and there were some structural issues beginning to emerge, as one would find on a 45-year-old building.

We’ve also been asked about giving away or selling the bricks from the old tower. We had even talked with county officials about selling bricks, since local governments are always looking for ways to make extra revenue. Unfortunately, the construction company did not wish to take the extra time and expense of bringing the tower down brick-by-brick. Also, most of the bricks have asbestos covering or been exposed to asbestos, so we were told that the bricks could not distributed to the public without an expensive cleanup, if it was even possible.

We’ll probably see the teardown last several days, then the site will be cleaned up. What will go in that space for 2009, if anything, is still unknown. It certainly will look different this year out on the flight line, though.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Turning the Corner

At least I hope we’re turning the corner on the seasons. There’s the possibility of more snow this weekend, but we got about two inches of spring rain on Monday and Tuesday. Remarkably, with the sun and wind on Wednesday and Thursday the grounds dried fairly well.

It’s still kind of muddy on the grounds, so there’s more planning right now than actual projects. All the contractors will be having a powwow here within the next two weeks to finalize the exact order of getting things done. In a project of this size, there are so many people dependent on one another. Excavation crews, builders, electricians and everyone else want to know when they should be the grounds. And as anyone who has ever built anything knows, change orders cost time and money.

All in all, there’s a lot of eagerness to get going. It’s been a long winter, and it still doesn’t seem to want to end, but everybody wants to get outside and finish the job.

We’re also helping the Wisconsin Public Service Farm Show prepare for their event on the grounds next Tuesday through Thursday. That show uses all four exhibit hangars and the ground between them. Lots of big farm machinery will be here, most of which looks like it would really fun to play with. I’d like to snag a few pieces of the farm machinery after the show to help with the site construction, especially those rock pickers and seeders…

The new Vintage Aircraft type club/workshop building is coming along well. We should have the roof closed up this week. It took a while to finish the walls, since we had a few days of high winds a couple of weeks back.

There’s one change in the location of the Lost and Found area. Instead of at the Main Gate with the Oshkosh and regional/state Visitor Information booth, we’ve decided to put Lost and Found in a building just to the southwest of the SkyShoppe along the flight line. There are some reasons for that: That area supports the entire grounds, so a more centrally located spot is good for those from the North 40 aircraft camping area or the south end instead of going all the way to the Main Gate. The building by the Main Gate will now exclusively have information about Oshkosh and other cities in the region, as well as the state of Wisconsin.

We’re also finalizing locations for other buildings, such as the Protect Our Planes volunteers, program distribution and others, which we’ll talk about in coming weeks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

One Bite At A Time

Everybody’s in a much brighter mood around here this week. The temps broke into the high 50s and the 60s earlier this week and we lost much of the snow that seems to have been here for what seems like the last five decades.

As the snow leaves us, reality also starts to sink in on how much needs to get done before the gates open on July 27. It’s a challenge, to be sure, but it will be exciting as we accomplish each step.

There will be a couple changes in food stands at Oshkosh this year. With things moving around on the site, there’s an opportunity to adjust some food stands to prime traffic areas as the new look takes shape.

If you started attending AirVenture before 1995, you’ll recognize one of the new food locations. It will be at the corner of Waukau Avenue and Knapp Street Road, kitty-corner from the new control tower. Back in the “old” days, before Winnebago County expanded the airport property, the private owner had food service in their front yard. The old Shakey’s Pizza, which no longer exists in Oshkosh, set up shop there at the time.

Just an aside: I also recall that they had campers set up in the old cattle pasture there, too. I never was sure if that area kept all the “natural features” even as people put up their tents…

In addition, the food stands that last year were east of the FAA building, next to the Honda Pavilion, are now gone. Between the food stands just to the north across Waukau Ave., next to the Wearhouse and just east of AeroShell Square, that area is still well serviced.

Even with the relocated Main Gate, the Sacred Heart food stand will be staying in the same position on the newly rerouted Forest Home Avenue. There will also be a food stand at the intersection of Waukau Avenue and the northeast walkway leading from the Main Gate, as shown on the map here (click on it for a larger version).
I’ve been spending a lot of time over the past two weeks trying to put the final details on the basis site map that will be used for all the other maps you’ll be seeing in the coming weeks. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s good in some ways, since it focused us on finalizing locations for some areas where we still had questions.

One thing goes through my mind on occasion as we put the pieces together for 2009: I have to remind myself not to think of the grounds as they were last year, or in 1994 before we built the exhibit hangars, or even in the early 1980s when I was growing up just down the road from the AirVenture grounds. We must focus on what the grounds require to serve visitors in future years. It’s always easier remembering than predicting, because we know what happened in the past. We have to gauge the future using the best information we have right now.

All this leaves one final question: Do I take Louisville or North Carolina in the NCAA pool?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Main (Gate) Attraction

At long last, we’re getting confirmation on where some of the remaining buildings will be located after we moved them from the area just north of AeroShell Square.

We’ve already discussed the Chapter and Young Eagles buildings (at the corner of Waukau and Knapp Street Road); International Visitors’ Tent (just north of the Control Tower); and the IAC Headquarters (A little bit south of it former location, just east of AeroShell Square).

One other building that is a very popular stop is the combination Lost & Found/Area Visitor Information pavilion. This year, that building will be just inside the relocated Main Gate. As long as we’re talking about the Main Gate, let’s go through what you’ll see when you arrive at the Main Gate in 2009 (with a little help from a handy line map):

When you arrive for your first day, you’ll choose from one of two directions. You’ll either go to your left to the Ticket Purchase/Admissions building (1), or the Assistance Center/Will Call window (2).

If you purchased AirVenture tickets in advance online, you’ll head to the right to the Admissions building (3), where you’ll get your wristband.

EAA’s computer ops building (4) is behind the advance ticket exchange building, but is not open to the public.

The Lost & Found/Area Visitor Information building is just inside the Main Gate, to your left (5). It’s the place where representatives from Oshkosh, Fox Cities (Appleton), Fond du Lac and Wisconsin visitor and tourism bureau have maps and information about the area and the state.

There are a couple of locations I want to mention as well. Just outside the main gate to the left (6) is the location to pickup and rent handicapped scooters, wheelchairs and other mobility needs. You can reserve those in advance and I’d recommend that plan if you need one, as demand is high.

The final areas, on either side just outside the gates (7) are bicycle parking areas. You can get right to the Main Gate. I’d encourage you to bring a lock for your bike.

I hope that creates a picture of what to expect when you get to Oshkosh this year. We’re finalizing maps right now and we’ll share more of specific locations in coming weeks.

Just for your info: Winter won’t leave us alone. Our crews spent Sunday night plowing (again). About seven inches of snow fell. This week we’ve already snow, sun, rain, wind and cold. In March, Wisconsin is truly a four-season paradise. Sometimes within a single week…

Thursday, February 26, 2009

In Wisconsin, There’s Winter And…

…many people say, construction season. On the AirVenture grounds, though, our construction went through much of the winter and is ready to pick up again in March. Not so much today, though, as we're expecting about six inches of snow, maybe mixed with sleet.

We’ve set some of the new locations for longtime facilities that were moved after AirVenture 2008. Some of the other places are still waiting for their exact addresses, but we’ll be catching everyone up on those as they happen.

The International Visitors Tent will be occupying the grassy area between the new control tower and Waukau Ave. That is just across the street from Press Headquarters. It’s the 35th year for the International Visitors Tent at the fly-in, too, and it’s a valuable area that provide interpreter services and a little additional friendliness to those people from more than 60 nations who make the trip to Oshkosh each year.

One building that will be disappearing is the aircraft registration building along Wittman Road, formerly located near the IAC headquarters and one of the food stands. Those who park their airplanes on the flight line had used this registration station much less frequently in recent years. The resources can be better used in other areas. If you used that building to register your aircraft, fear not: You’ll still be able to register just as quickly in the homebuilt or vintage (showplane camping) areas nearby.

Some of these changes will affect our volunteers. We don’t want to catch anyone by surprise, so our Convention Headquarters staff has been calling and writing the chairmen of those areas to let them know what is happening, even if their area isn’t directly affected. There will be plenty of changes to the grounds, so getting the information out as much as possible is important.

One other meeting I had this week — yes, even at EAA one can’t escape going to meetings — was with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. The state is planning a major reconstruction of U.S. Highway 41, the major route that runs right past EAA through Oshkosh, beginning in 2010. That project will last through 2014 in the Oshkosh area and 2015 in the Green Bay area.

You may see some preliminary work this year around the Lake Butte des Morts bridge at the north end of town during AirVenture 2009. That bridge will be expanded, so early grading work will be started this year. It shouldn’t hold up vehicle traffic to any great extent, though.

Even though the project in 2010 and beyond will make some pretty big changes to Highway 41, the state has always been quite understanding of the traffic in the area during the fly-in. Right now, that’s still a ways off. We have plenty to do right here to get ready for AirVenture 2009!

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Stick In The Mud

It would be easy to be a stick in the mud this week, or at least stuck in the mud. The warmer temps (the couple of inches of snow on Tuesday night that surprised us notwithstanding) have thawed the surface layer, meaning that it’s not a good time for heavy equipment in some areas. Ripping up those areas with heavy-axle vehicles would mean we’d spend our time repairing the grounds in the coming months rather than moving forward with projects.

The new grounds will affect the Wisconsin Public Service Farm Show, which will be coming to the grounds at the end of March, as it has for the past several years. We’ll make sure the heavy equipment they use or display stay on the hard surfaces or area that have not been disturbed by last fall’s major earth moving.

One of the things the crews are doing this week, though, is the annual tree trimming in Camp Scholler. As the trees there grow, they always to sprout new branches on the lower levels. We have to trim them back during the winter so they don’t hit motorhomes that park near the trees this summer, or that the motorhomes don’t tear out branches and damages the trees. It’s one of those little things that most people never think about when they’re in Camp Scholler, but it’s always on the list of yearly maintenance items.

An addition that we’re going to be starting soon is a new pavilion in the Warbirds area. This pavilion will replace the tent that has exists next to the Warbirds “tower” for many years, and will be roughly the same size. The Warbirds will use it for a variety of programs and for hospitality events.

Finally, a quick update on the Founders’ Wing inside the museum, which you’ll see during AirVenture this year. It’s looking very good and is on schedule for a July opening. The heating and air conditioning units will be installed next week, and we hope to start painting the ceiling and walls by the end of February.

As we move toward March the start of spring, there are a lot of pent-up projects that are ready to roll. All we need is good weather to get going.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Warming Up, Powering Down

Yes, I’m writing on Friday the 13th, just to show that I’m not superstitious. I even managed to sneak away for a few days of vacation in a nice warm climate before getting back to work here on the site this week. No photos this week, since there’s not a specific “thing” to feature. But there will be some real soon, certainly.

Now that the weather is finally warming, we brought all the contractors together to look over the upcoming projects and prioritize them for the coming months. In a regular year there is a lot of competition for staff time and resources, but with the major site project going on, those demands increase in a big way. We want to be ready when the weather breaks completely.

It’s an interesting time of year, because we have to be careful when driving on the grounds. The very top of the turf is thawing or is only lightly frozen, so we can cause a lot of damage to the grounds while driving if we’re not careful.

One thing we’re anticipating is paving the new thoroughfares with porous asphalt. This product, which is made from materials such as recycled shingles, limits water runoff and keeps more of the rainwater on the site to maintain the water table. Our project engineers tell us that this is fairly new technology in the emerging “green construction” methods. We’re told that this extra effort might even make us eligible for some awards when the project is finished.

I’ve received a few e-mails on the status of electrical hookups in Camp Scholler. I can say this is an area that the input of EAA members and AirVenture visitors has been very valuable for the past six months. After reviewing the comments and the maps, we’ve put that project on hold for at least one year. The reason is simple: it’s not certain that the proposed location was the best one. It’s better to step back and really study how to best to it rather than push through and then have to re-do it later. It’s that “measure twice, cut once” principle I mentioned last week.

One last thing: I mentioned that we welcome EAA Chapters and individuals who would like to volunteer a day or a weekend on the site effort or on other grounds projects. We did, however, manage to leave out any contact point. So here goes: If you’re interested, just give us a call at 920-426-4819 or e-mail me at We’d love to have your time and talents with us and like I mentioned last week, you’ll have the inside knowledge of the new site before anyone else!

Friday, February 6, 2009

A Little This, A Little That

Now that the calendar has turned to February, the darkest part of winter is behind us. It’s daylight until 6 p.m. in Oshkosh now, and this weekend the temperatures should finally get into the high 30s and maybe even the 40s. It makes working outdoors a little more tolerable, as we had gone nearly six weeks with the temps never rising above freezing.

This week we lowered the IAC headquarters building into place. That building hasn’t moved far — just 100 yards or so south. It’s now close to the intersection of Wittman Road (the main thoroughfare along the flight line) and the AeroShell Square taxiway, where the EAA Sweepstakes building was last year.

The walls for the new Vintage type club/workshop building are being constructed indoors, then transported to the site to be installed. While that means we have to be pretty sure in our measurements (measure twice/cut once, you know), it allows us to be inside and warm while building.

Interesting discovery this week — an EAA staffer found a number of 1981 grounds maps while cleaning out a storage area. It’s fascinating to see the grounds as they were 28 years ago.

Large version:

There’s no AeroShell Square, no exhibit hangars west of Knapp Street Road, and it was the first year for Theater in the Woods, in what was then called “Ollie’s Woods.” Most importantly, there's no EAA Aviation Center on this map! It wouldn't open for another two years. All of this reminds us how much the grounds have changed at Oshkosh over four decades (Remember the drive-in theater at the 41/44 interchange?).

Someone asked Paul Poberezny about the changes and whether those have taken him by surprise during the event’s 40 years in Oshkosh. He replied that not really, but he added that it’s kind of like watching your kids grow up. If you see them each day, you really don’t notice it, but if you were away for a year or two you’d be astonished at how much they’ve changed. For people who might come to Oshkosh every few years, they’re surprised at how things do change, even if we who are on the grounds each day might not notice.

Now that spring looks as if it may eventually arrive, it’s time to be thinking about the EAA Chapter and volunteer work parties that come to Oshkosh to help out each year. Let me make a little pitch here: You’re always welcome to come join us for a day or a weekend on the grounds. A large number of Chapters already do that, and we have a great time. This year, there’s one other bonus – you’ll have an advance insider’s look at the changes so you can amaze your friends with your knowledge of the new site!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Getting There From Here

We’re moving along on several of the projects described earlier, so I thought this would be a good week to talk about another change everyone will see on the grounds in 2009 – tram service and transportation. With all the changes, upgrading the way people are moved through the grounds is essential. I asked Karen Kryzaniak of the EAA staff, who is part of the group spending a lot of time on those issues, to give us an update:

Thanks, Steve. We’ve heard many good suggestions about improving tram service on the grounds, and also studied ways to geatly reduce the number of vehicles in some of main areas. While it’s still a work in progress, here are some items that have already been finalized:

The flight line transportation service will be divided into three main sectors. These may be color-coded or marked in some other easy-to-recognize way.

-- The North Route will run in a loop from near Exhibit Hangar A, past the forums and to the warbirds area. There will be double the number of trams from previous years – as many as 10 or 11 at peak times, operating from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. Handicapped visitor srvice will also be available.

-- The Central Route will operate through the main exhibit area, past Theater in the Woods and into the Vintage area to the tram headquarters near the Hangar Café. This area will also have double the previous number of trams, operate 8 a.m.-7 p.m. and also have disabled visitors services.

-- The South Route will operate from the Hangar Café to the far south area of showplane camping along Runway 18/36. Here we’ll use buses instead of open trams because of the road conditions and distances that need to be traveled.

Along with this, there will also be bus service from the grounds into Camp Scholler and, as in past years, to the AirVenture Museum and through the North 40 on the perimeter road around Runway 9/27. In addition, there will again be a bus for North 40 campers that makes the short trip to Target, Pick ‘n Save supermarket and other stores in that nearby shopping center.

One thing everyone wants to do is reduce the number of vehicles in prime pedestrian areas, especially in the areas in and around AeroShell Square and the main aircraft displays. Yet we realize services must be maintained, such as trams, garbage collection and toilet cleaning, in that area. Some of what you’ll see is as follows:

-- There will be NO vehicles on the taxiway between the main gate and AeroShell Square;
-- The only vehicles you’ll see on the new pedestrian walkways running northeast and southeast from the main gate will be trams for attendees;
-- Greatly reduced vehicle access “inside the V,” as we’re calling it, in the area that includes AeroShell Square and main aircraft display.

We’re also looking at other ideas to keep vehicles and people separated on the grounds, such as additional designated pedestrian walkways and crossings. Once everything is finalized, we’ll be posting detailed maps on the site. We’ve included many ideas from visitors in the process and also brought in site professionals to study the best and safest way to move people and vehicles. Keep watching as it takes shape!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Flush With Good News

The weather finally gave us a break – if you call temps in the 20s a break – so activity returned to the AirVenture site this week. It’s good to have things moving after a cold and snowy stretch.

Some buildings that were on blocks since last fall are finding new locations. The Young Eagles and Chapter buildings will be relocated near the corner of Waukau Avenue and Knapp Street Road. That is just north of the new control tower and west of Press Headquarters. In addition, the Protect Our Planes program building will be moving to a spot near the Winnebago County’s Sheriff’s compound, just northwest of the control tower along Waukau Avenue.

We also poured the concrete for the outer grade beam of the new Vintage area workshop building. That will allow us to put the walls up and once the frame is enclosed, we can pour the concrete floor. This project reminds me that it’s relatively easy to pour concrete footings and slabs in good weather. Throw in snow, ice, frost and below-zero temperatures, and you get a real challenge. The crews have been up to the task, though.

We’ve received questions about some improvements in Camp Scholler for this year. Here’s a big one: flush toilets! Now, before you get so excited that you need to take a pause yourself over this news, let me put it in proper context. There won’t be enough that everyone has their own private privy, but this is a major step forward in, um, comfort.

We are redoing several shower buildings in Camp Scholler for 2009. Some of those buildings had their shower stalls redone last year. Now we are adding several men’s and women’s flush toilets at the following locations:
-- The Stits building on Stits Road in the southwest part of Camp Scholler (shown above during a warmer period last summer);
-- The showers near the West Side campground store;
-- The bunkhouse shower building near the Camp Scholler security office (shown at the right in the aerial view below);
-- The North 40 showers along the perimeter road, south of Runway 9/27.

Two other shower buildings in Camp Scholler, near Paul’s Park and along Doolittle Road, need a lot more work and are in prime locations for completely new shower facilities – if not for 2009, certainly in the near future.

The three Camp Scholler toilet locations will be hooked to holding tanks, since there are no sewer lines out there. The North 40 facility, though, is close enough to city services that it can be connected to the city sewer line.

Of course, for you Oshkosh traditionalists, there will continue to be 1,000 portable toilets at central locations throughout the grounds to meet your needs, just like in the “good ol’ days.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Now Presenting: Exhibit A (and more)

This week Oshkosh is truly the frozen tundra, all but stopping our outdoor work. Below-zero temps will do that. While we’re handling indoor projects, I asked Jeff Kaufman, EAA’s director of business development who is pictured here, to update what’s happening in the main exhibit area for 2009:

Thanks, Steve. The redesign of the AirVenture site not only creates better pedestrian flow through the grounds, it also helps the more than 750 exhibitors who come to Oshkosh each year. It’s a challenging time for every business. We want to give each exhibitor the best possible opportunity to succeed and allow you to more easily do one of AirVenture’s favorite pastimes – checking out what’s new in aviation and shopping for those things you want and need. There's more visibility for exhibitors, increased exhibit space (by 45 percent, in total), better access and other things that visitors and exhibitors have requested.

It’s a big task. While it won’t affect those companies with indoor spaces, it means moves for a significant number of outdoor exhibitors. We’re re-numbering all the outdoor exhibit spaces so they make better sense. Specific quadrants are also being created, so locating the exhibits you’re seeking will be easier.

A big challenge when revamping all this will be helping exhibitors announce where their new locations are. While the better traffic flow is good news, we’re creatures of habit. A lot of us are used to a particular company being in a certain place. How to get the word out that a company has moved? As we finalize the outdoor exhibitor locations, we have a number of web-based ideas that will let you find your favorite vendor well in advance of AirVenture, and while you’re on the grounds. I think you’ll like what you see.

Once you’re at Oshkosh, there will be information towers on the grounds with maps and directions, and several staffed information kiosks, too.

Also, we’re supplying exhibitors with things called “glyphs” that they can use in their pre-AirVenture advertising and promotion, indicating their location. Look for these in your favorite magazines or websites. We’re encouraging exhibitors to use them as much as possible.

Just as when the main exhibit hangars opened in 1995 and 1997, familiar companies will be in different places at Oshkosh this year. We’re doing everything we can to keep the confusion to a minimum, and your ideas are always welcome.

I promised Steve I wouldn’t go on too long here, so thanks for reading. We’ll see you this summer at Oshkosh!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

It’s New, But It’s Vintage

We’ve talked a lot about changes near the relocated Main Gate, but there are several other projects taking place on the grounds that you’ll notice in 2009. One new building is near the Vintage Aircraft Association Red Barn.

That building will be replacing the tents that have been used in past years for Vintage type club events and workshop demonstrations. The tents were a workable solution, anyone who’s been in there knows the problems bad weather or soft ground cause.
As the photo by H.G. Frautschy shows, the concrete forms are set for the new 75-by-100 foot facility, which will be located next to the Red Barn. This photo looks northeast from behind the new building's site. Type-club events and workshops will go in there, as will some functions such as the vintage association’s data services, administration and so forth.

That means the concession buildings in that area will also be on the move. The small ice cream stand that was in front of the Vintage Red Barn will now go bewteen the Red Barn and Theater in the Woods, along what’s known as Vern Avenue. Its former location will be used for special vintage aircraft displays and some informal vintage aircraft forums, similar to the popular “Warbirds in Review” activities.

The Classic Café just south of the Red Barn will be reconfigured and move just a little farther south along Wittman Road.

This week’s question of the week is about the bike corral at the east end of Camp Scholler. That moved a couple hundred yards to the west in 2008 to eliminate the conflict with cars entering Lot D parking. That bike corral will likely stay that new location in 2009, but it may be redesigned a little because of the drainage from the relocated Flymarket south and west of Hangar D. The idea is to keep the bikes and the walk from the bike corral as dry as possible (something that wasn’t always easy in the old location).

The best way to enter the grounds after parking a bike will be through Gate 19, just south of Exhibit Hangars D & B, which is much quicker than walking down the Camp Scholler road past Lot D.

Thanks again for reading and for your questions!