By Steve Finkelman, AAM Communications Coordinator

To the general public Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is a place where they make jeans. But to aviation buffs the name means airplanes. Lots and lots of airplanes. (And every other kind of vehicle that can take to the air.)

EAA AirVenture is a week-long gathering of pilots and aviation enthusiasts from North America and around the world.  This year almost 600,000 people and 10,000 airplanes and  made the pilgrimage to the “Mecca” of aviation during the second last week in July. Restoration volunteer Phil Vere and I were among them. It was the first time for both of us.

It’s hard to describe a place where, in a few days, you can see more than you would in a lifetime of visiting other airshows and museums. These photos will give you can idea of the immense nature of it all.

Above: Everywhere you looked there were airplanes, with separate areas for each category of aircraft, warbirds, homebuilts, classics, antiques and ultralights. This year was the 80th anniversary of the Piper Cub so there were yellow airplanes as far as the eye could see. Cessna 195 owners also turned out in large numbers, parking in row upon row. There were also many unique aircraft like the ultra-shiny Spartan Executive.  About a third of the 10,000 airplanes on the field were showplanes, meaning their owners had worked hard to make their aircraft stand out in a crowd.

Above: The EAA’s Ford Trimotor flew not stop giving rides around the site. Two Bell 47 Helicopters were also constantly in the air.

Above: For the military aviation buff,  Oshkosh is a panacea. This year, the only two flying B-29 Superfortresses, Fifi and Doc, were on there.  B-25s were plentiful.  Sixteen of them took part in Tuesday’s airshow, marking the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid.  P-51 Mustangs looked almost commonplace as they were lined up in shiny rows. One unique military bird was displayed in Boeing Square. The L-15 Scout, a light observation plane or “Grashopper,” was built by Boeing during World War II. Only 15 were ever built.

Above: B-29s Fifi and Doc took to the sky in the Tuesday airshow, along with the B-25’s and gaggle of Mustangs. (There was also a herd of Harvards, Texans and SNJs and other WWII trainer variants, all in the air at the same time.) For fighter bomber buffs who like modern aircraft, there was a B-1 bomber and a couple of F35s.

Above: The daily airshow was also a chance to see the top performers in the world, including the legendary Sean Tucker in his Challenger III airplane, and Matt Younkin doing maneuvers a Beech 18 was never designed to do. The weird and wonderful also put in appearances. Scaled Composite’s Proteus and the Sonex Jet are aircraft you don’t see at your local airport.

Above: One of the most amazing areas of AirVenture is the separate ultralight field adjacent to the south end of the main runway. It’s the place where light aircraft can operate without getting in the way of their bigger brothers.  One of the days we were there, it had been taken over by a group of Light Sport Aircraft with extreme short takeoff and landing capabilities. (LSAs are a relatively new category of small aircraft in the United States which allow owners to buy completed airplanes and rotocraft at a much lower price than certified airplanes.) The two aircraft shown here, the Just Aircraft Highlander Super STOL and Lockwood Aviation AirCam were able to leap into the air in a few hundred feet. Look at the remarkable climb angle, all on engines over about 100 hp.

So if you’ve never been to “OSH” it is certainly a trip worth making. Bring lots of sunscreen, a good hat, plenty of water and sturdy walking shoes. And keep you head on a swivel because you won’t  believe how much you’ll see.