Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: Picture this: a gaggle of birds converging in Oshkosh, Wisconsin–more than 50 “Gooney Birds” actually–this week’s gathering the centerpiece of the world’s largest annual convention, the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture. They’ve had lots of rain, but hopefully the weather will cooperate for the much anticipated event which this year celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Douglas DC-3. Debuting in 1935, it was the airliner of the late 30’s, 40’s and early 50’s–the Golden Age of Aviation. The workhorse-of-an-aircraft continued to fly commercially well into the 90’s, but fewer than 100 airworthy DC-3s remain out of more than 14,000 built. In the military version as the C-47 they were used to fly supplies over “the Hump” from India into China, and later used in the Berlin Airlift. The Brits dubbed it “Gooney Bird.”
AirVenture is not only the largest annual convention of anything, anywhere, it’s one that embodies the spirit of aviation. Homebuilt and light sport, aerobatic and high performance planes, vintage and current warbirds, and even spacecraft are being showcased this very moment through August 1st, for a full week of pure “aviator heaven.” Concerts by bands such as Chicago, and Asleep at the Wheel, daytime and night time air shows, fireworks, a salute to Veterans that spans the entire event, and live auctions you can join in online through www.auctions.com, are just some of the other special features.
For the Young Eagles Auction, Ford Motor Company created an aviation-themed car: the one-of-a-kind 2011 SR-71 “Blackbird” Mustang. In 2008, the Mustang AV8R (with hints of the F-22 “Raptor”) delivered a record auction contribution of $500,000. In 2009, the AV-X10 “Dearborn Doll” auctioned was crafted in honor of WWII aircraft. This year’s Mustang is the first collaboration of former U.S. Air Force flight instructor Carroll Shelby and long-time P-51 pilot Jack Roush. The SR-71 “Blackbird” jet first took flight in 1964, the year Ford’s Mustang was introduced. Shelby and Roush helped design, engineer, and produce the SR-71 “Blackbird” Mustang, which includes their embroidered signatures in the seats.
Young Eagles and other EAA programs are designed to inspire youngsters to become engineers, aviators, astronauts, scientists, and innovators–the aviation pioneers of tomorrow. Introduced in July 1992, Young Eagles has already flown more than 1.5 million young people at no charge, making it the largest youth aviation education program in history, thanks to EAA.
Linda: Tom Poberezny is EAA’s president and AirVenture chairman; his dad, Paul is the guy who started it all, way up there in cheeseland back in 1953. It now draws over a million people each year. Thousands camp under the wings of their airplanes or on the lake shore nearby where a couple hundred floatplanes are moored. The theater in the woods shows new and old movies, including this year, “Fly About” and “Breaking Through the Clouds,” and all those people flock like gooney birds to the daily seminars offered by the best known aviation experts in the world. There are seminars on how to use a new product to its fullest potential, and builder workshops; presentations on the latest news and events affecting aviation, the introduction of new aircraft, and jaw-dropping fly-bys. Check the schedule online at www.AirVenture.org–it’s like a world’s fair of aviation and at its core is the spirit that every person attending can sense.
A million people like us, visiting and sharing experiences and enjoying the atmosphere, with the only real anxiety possibly being how nearly impossible it is to see everything here in a week.