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.