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!