EAA’s Jack Pelton Talks AirVenture 2017

EAA’s Jack Pelton Talks AirVenture 2017

EAA’s Jack Pelton Talks AirVenture 2017

Event chairman shares changes and special events we can expect at this year’s show, as well as planes he can’t wait to see on the grounds.

With the final countdown underway to AirVenture 2017, EAA staff are working double-time to ensure the grounds, programming and exhibits are ready for the greatest air show on earth. Twin & Turbine was fortunate to catch up with Jack Pelton, EAA chairman of the board and CEO, to get a sneak peek of what attendees can expect at this year’s show, as well as aspects as an owner-pilot he is looking forward to seeing and experiencing.

Twin & Turbine: AirVenture 2017 is shaping up to be yet another spectacular show. Among all of the celebrations, milestones and performances, what are you most personally excited about?

Pelton: AirVenture 2017 is going to be another incredible week of what we like to say, “Only at Oshkosh” attractions. It is always hard to say what I am most looking forward to. That said for this year my personal top 5 would be.

The celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Young Eagles program is a very special recognition to our volunteers who fly and support this initiative. I cannot think of any program that has done more for so long in introducing young people to flying. With over 7,000 pilots donating their time and planes along with 12,000 more helping organize the rallies, every year, this typifies the volunteer spirit Paul Poberezny created in founding EAA. 

The gathering of the Apollo astronauts and crews will be memorable. This could be the last public gathering of the remaining Apollo astronauts. It was a time where America showed there was no challenge too large for us as a nation to conquer. The added excitement for me was the fact that I grew up in Downey, California where the Apollo capsule was designed and built. So that entire program was very close to home in many ways.   

Having the B-29 Doc from Wichita, Kansas make its largest public debut will be very exciting. Couple that with it flying side-by-side with FIFI for the first time, during the air show, will be another incredible sight. The line-up of bombers supporting  these two B-29’s is also very impressive. A B-1, B-2, B-52, B-17 and 16 B-25’s celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle raid will be the icing on the cake. 

Always a crowd favorite at other air shows is the Blue Angels. Now for the first time we are honored to have them flying at Oshkosh. It will be a thrilling display. 

Paul always said we come to Oshkosh for the planes and come back for the people. The best part is always gathering with members, friends, and this year all three of my grandsons to enjoy the aviation event in the world. 

Twin & Turbine: The Blue Angels are making their first appearance at AirVenture (GO NAVY!) What are the challenges (and joys) of hosting our country’s elite military demonstration team?

Pelton: What many people don’t know is that to host a military demonstration team requires a much larger aerobatic “box” then a typical air show. That is why AirVenture has not hosted teams in the past. It requires businesses and residences on the east side of the field to have to vacate during the performance. We cannot ask these businesses and residences to do that year after year. And quite frankly if any person says no, we cannot have the performance. As a result, we must coordinate years in advance to gain the cooperation of those impacted in order to invite a military demonstration team.

On top of that the Blues require their own standard operating procedures that usually requires them to fly a full show for four days. To preserve the diversity of acts in our air show we could not give up all four days to the Blues. They were over the top accommodating to fly just Friday and Saturday in order to come. As you can imagine this was such a wonderful gesture and we are thrilled that our members will as a result get to see the Blues at Oshkosh. We also recognize that with the Blue Angels being such a draw that many people who have never experienced AirVenture will attend for their first time and learn what EAA is all about. 

Twin & Turbine: What particular aircraft you are looking forward to seeing parked on the AirVenture grounds this year?

Pelton: I am a little biased this year in that it is the 70th anniversary of the Cessna 190/195 so I hoping to see 70 190/195’s in vintage parking. The only flying A-20 will be down in warbirds parking, which is very rare. With the 40th anniversary of the Christian Eagle this year I am also anxious to see a large number of Eagles parked in the homebuilt area. That plane set the gold standard for kit-built aircraft with the way it was brought to market in a series of kits and builder manuals. 

Twin & Turbine: What improvements or changes have been implemented this year to make the weeklong event even better?

Pelton: On the grounds this year we have been investing a lot to keep improving the experience. The facilities are being upgraded. More improved campsites with electrical power have been added. The Vintage Red Barn has been enlarged, Theater in the Woods has been upgraded and modernized, and a permanent gathering pavilion has been built in the homebuilt camping area. Similarly, a permanent building for Young Eagles and Chapters has been added across from the forum area that we are calling the Blue Barn. We continue to evolve the Innovations Pavilion by bringing the latest in new technologies and concepts. We are excited that the Kitty Hawk ultra-light that many are seeing on YouTube will be there and flying at the seaplane base. 

Twin & Turbine: EAA has added its voice in opposition to the proposed ATC privatization plan. In your mind, what is the No. 1 reason this would be a bad idea for GA?

Pelton: The No. 1 reason privatization of the ATC system is a bad idea is that, in this approach to fix a problem that does not exist, there will be unintended consequences. There is not a privatized system in world that did not add cost to GA users and reduced access. This concept is being pushed by the airlines for their benefit. We in the GA community will lose our support of congressional oversight to ensure all users’ voice is heard. It creates a private monopoly
that as a result is not in the best interest of all public users. We all need to make sure your local elected officials understand this.

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