A maker’s look at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s
AirVenture show. By William Gurstelle
Of all the projects that makers can conceive,
I’d wager that none is so challenging to both
mind and body or has such a rich and historic
legacy as the home-built flying machine.
Long before the Wright Brothers, makers were
trying to emulate bird flight in balloons and gliders.
Early success stories were few and far between. But
since the Wrights, building airplanes has been the
maker’s mark, the cynosure of amateur craftsmanship and mechanical design. No other amateur
construction commands the respect and admiration of an airplane.
Serving the needs of skyward-dreaming makers
is the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), an
international organization of aviation enthusiasts.
Each summer, 170,000 people attend the group’s
week-long AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wis. It’s a
happening place, so much so that the comparatively tiny Oshkosh airport temporarily becomes
the world’s busiest, its control tower managing
hundreds of takeoffs and landings hourly.
A few of those takeoffs and landings involve the
U.S. Air Force’s best and most modern craft — for
example, the Lockheed Martin F- 22 Raptor. On
demonstration flights, these airplanes scream by,
90 feet above the runway. Then, with afterburners
Photography by William Gurstelle (this page and next, top)
50 Make: Volume 15