This is the week before EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) AirVenture Oshkosh opens at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Hundreds of thousands of aviation enthusiasts will come from all over the U.S. and dozens of other countries to take in the sights during its seven-day run. This year’s dates are July 23-29 so the fun starts Monday but over this weekend, aircraft of all sorts will be arriving. Planes on display run the gamut from homebuilts to warbirds, military moderns to old biplanes. If it flies, it is most likely going to be represented at AirVenture.
My Dad and a couple of his flying buddies used to go to the EAA event almost every year, starting back when it was called the “Fly-In” and held in Rockford, Illinois. Sometimes they drove and sometimes they flew in Ken’s Mooney. No matter the mode of travel, that trip was a highlight of the year for him. I have all of the family slides in boxes in the basement and I know that when I get around to viewing them all, I’ll find hundreds of airplane photos taken at that air show!
The EAA gathering started small in 1953 in Milwaukee, but as it gained popularity and needed more space, the event moved to the larger venue in Rockford in 1959. Ten years later, it moved to Oshkosh and has become the largest air show in the U.S.
This year, the Tuskegee Airmen are going to be honored on two of the days. On Wednesday, the 25th, they’ll be part of the “Greatest Generation In The Air” Day. Two of the surviving Doolittle Raiders – Dick Cole and David Thatcher – are also scheduled to be honored that day. Some Tuskegee Airmen who plan to attend that day are: Charles McKee, George Boyd, Bob Ashby, Alexander Jefferson, Washington Ross, Harold Brown and William Thompson. During the week, Charles McGee and George Boyd will also be leading forums about the Airmen’s experiences.
On Friday, the 27th, the Airmen will also be participating in the “Salute To Veterans” Day. The Squadron’s P-51C Mustang, a P-17 Stearman bi-plane and a T-6 trainer will be exhibited together in Warbird Alley that afternoon so that attending Airmen (and everyone else) can see these three airplanes that meant so much to the Airmen's history together.
The RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit is marking its first anniversary at this year’s AirVenture. I was there for a few days last year when it was introduced and quickly became a “must-see” display. Since then, more than 36,000 people have seen the “Rise Above” movie and heard the story of the Tuskegee Airmen’s accomplishments.
The Mustang named Tuskegee Airmen is also marking an anniversary – it was introduced to AirVenture attendees in 2009 after a 5-year restoration. This is one of my favorite pictures from that event – Tuskegee Airman Charles E. McGee shaking the hand of CAF Red Tail Squadron leader Brad Lang – the son of a Tuskegee Airman - after Brad landed the Mustang at AirVenture.
If you go, both the Traveling Exhibit and the Mustang will be parked on the east/south side of the Phillips 66 Plaza, a truly “happenin'” place. Big machines that fly are constantly brought in and swapped out on that huge chunk of concrete during the run of AirVenture so you never know what you’re going to see, but you can bet it will be a treat to see up close. Wear comfortable shoes, bring your sunscreen and your camera and plan to stop by and see us.
If you can’t go to AirVenture this year but would like to download this year's poster - featuring (ahem…) the Squadron’s Mustang - click here, go to the bottom of the page and click the link you prefer.
Countdown to the election: 3 months, 17 days.
The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven 501c3 non-profit organization that operates under the auspices of the Commemorative Air Force. For more information, please visit redtail.org.