THE EAA AIRVENTURE MUSEUM OSHKOSH, A WORLD OF WONDER

By Willie Bodenstein




The Museum was proposed by Paul Poberezny the founder of the EAA and was founded in 1962. The current buildings at Wittman Airport was erected during 1982

With more than 200 historic aircraft, four movie theatres, a library with nearly 11,000 books, a photo archive that has more than 100,000 images and with displays varying from the Wright Flyer to SpaceShipOne the EAA Museum is a magical place that will thrill and amaze any visitor that takes the time to explore its capacious hallowed halls.

The idea for a Museum dedicated to the homebuilders movement was proposed by Paul Poberezny the founder of the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) in 1958 and the museum was founded in 1962 when Steve Wittman after which Wittman Regional Airport was named donated his famous Air Racer, 'Bonzo' to the EAA. Fund raising for a permanent home for the thousands of artefacts and growing number of aircraft that was then housed in a rented warehouse was started in 1979 and USD10 million was raised. The current buildings at Wittman Airport was erected during 1982 and opened in 1983. Consisting of a lower and upper level with numerous halls highlighting various sectors of aviation one needs almost a full day to explore the museum in its entirety.



The museum's collection is so extensive that it is impossible to feature all the aircraft on display in this article

In 1986 the adjoining Pioneer Airfield, an authentic recreation of a 1930's aerodrome was added to the museums already world class facilities. Pioneer Airport is styled as a typical airport of the 1930s and portrays a time when the magic of flying charmed the world. Over 50 vintage airplanes are on display in the field's seven period hangars, each hangar capturing the true spirit of the early history of flight. During AirVenture the runway is closed to fixed wing aircraft but visitors are able to book flights on the vintage Bell C47 Helicopter that saw extensive service during the Korean War. The Museums Ford Tri-motor operates from the Pioneer Airport at other times.



Pioneer Airfield in the background with an exhibit inside the Museum



The Museum also maintains an extremely varied airworthy fleet - everything from a powered parachute to a B-17 Flying Fortress as well as the Ford Trimotor

Entry to the Museum that is situated on the western boundary of the grounds close to Highway 41 is free for visitors to AirVenture. The Museum is dedicated to the pioneers of aviation and the homebuilder's movement and the displays focus on historical and experimental aircraft. Its collection of aircraft when placed alphabetically start with the Aero Gare Sea Hawk and ends with the Wittman Witts V. Only the letters i, j, q, x, y and z are not represented. Each of the 100 plus aircraft that are displayed at any given time has a tale to tell.



Upon entering the museum one's eyes are immediately drawn to four Christen Eagles suspended as if in an aerobatic formation from the high vaulted ceiling

Don't expect to see row upon row of Warbirds although there are quite a few on display outside in the park like grounds and more inside. In 1960 the EAA was granted eligibility to receive surplus military aircraft from the USAF (United States Air Force) and its collection now includes the Northprop F-86 Scorpion, North American F-86 Sabre, Lockheed T-33 and P-80 Shooting Star, Republic F-84F Thunderstreak, P-38 Lightning, B-25 Mitchell Bomber, de Havilland Mosquito and P-51 Mustang amongst others.



The Museums P-51 is a representation of the XP-51

One of the Museums most prized possessions is the North American Aviation XP-51. In 1940 North America Aviation offered to build a new fighter to British specifications and the result was the P-51 Mustang of which over 15,000 were eventually produced. The Museums P-51 is a representation of the XP-51. It is the fourth of the type to be build and the oldest surviving example. The Museum also maintains an extremely varied airworthy fleet - everything from a powered parachute to a B-17 Flying Fortress.



World War One Legends

Upon entering the museum one's eyes are immediately drawn to four Christen Eagles suspended as if in an aerobatic formation from the high vaulted ceiling. The Christen Eagle was a ground breaking design; the first complete aircraft kit ever offered it elevated homebuilding aircraft to a new level.



The 1903 Wright Flyer resting on a display that includes sand from the actual dunes at Kitty Hawk

Looking to your right steps lead down to the lower level and greeting you is a full size replica of the aircraft that started it all, the 1903 Wright Flyer resting on a display that includes sand from the actual dunes at Kitty Hawk. Another star in the collection and one of its first aircraft is the Bonzo designed, built and raced by Steve Wittman an Oshkosh resident in 1934. Steve's careful attention to streamlining allowed his homebuilt to compete against others that had twice the horsepower and in 1935 he finished second in the Thompson Trophy Races. The Bonzo could reach 325 mph in level flight and its innovative leaf spring landing gear can still be found on thousands of Cessna aircraft today.



A collection of historic Racing Aircraft including Steve Wittman's 'Bonzo'

Another noteworthy exhibit in the racing section is the French designed and built 1937 Bugatti Model 100. Initially intended as a single engine air racer during the design process it was decided to attempt the world three kilometre speed record and a second inboard mounted engine was fitted, each engine driving a forward mounted contra rotating propeller through a separate drive shaft. The aircraft also featured a 120 degree V-tail arrangement and retractable landing gear and the aircraft was the source of five modern patents including the inline engines, V tail mixer controls, and the automatic flap system. The Bugatti never flew and was sold several times before finding its way to the museum.



The 1937 Bugatti Model 100 intended as a single engine air racer



The full size replica of Charles Lindberg's Spirit of St Louis

A full size replica of Charles Lindberg's Spirit of St Louis hangs over a diorama of Paris as it was when Lindberg made his historic flight.

A display dedicated to probably one of the greatest aviation innovators of modern times Burt Rutan includes all his futuristic designs including a full size replica of the history making Voyager that in 1986 made the first non-stop around the world flight as well as SpaceShipOne, the world's first civilian built spacecraft.





A display dedicated to probably one of the greatest aviation innovators of modern times Burt Rutan includes all his futuristic designs



SpaceShipOne, the world's first civilian built spacecraft

In the vintage section is a reproduction of the Sikorsky S-38 the first commercially successful helicopter as well as the Pitcairn Auotogyro, the type that contributed to the successful development of the helicopter. Another important name in the early development of flying was Glenn Curtis whose development of the aileron is one of the most significant contributions in the development of aircraft. Glen's Curtiss 1911 Pusher is one of the oldest original aircraft displayed in the museum.



The Pitcairn Auotogyro

The Homebuilt Section features everything from the world's smallest airplanes, early plans build designs that are household names today, the early kit build designs and today's easy build kits and includes a number of Van's early RV designs.



Crosby CR4

The museum's collection is so extensive that it is impossible to feature all the aircraft on display in this article. Some of the aircraft are household names like the Aeronca C-2-N Deluxe Scout, Cessna 150H, Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15bis, Piper J3C-65, Pietenpol Aircamper, Thorp T-18 and Waco UEC. Others like the Chotia-Vorndran JC24-B Weedhopper, Driggers 1-A, Haufe-Dale Hawk 2, Hegy R.C.H.I. El Chuparosa, Lesher Teal, Unruh Pretty Prairie Special III and Volmer Jensen-Ramey VJ-23E Swingwing probably never found favour but none the less illustrates man's quest to conquer the sky and make flying possible and affordable to the average man in the street.

When in Oshkosh a visit to the museum is a must. This entry in the visitors book just about sums it up: "The Museum is absolutely amazing! The displays are breath taking and like no other anywhere in the world! Where else can you touch a moon rock and an asteroid chunk whilst surrounded by the biggest display of great experimental aircraft, the pioneers of flight and legendary Warbirds? Some may have failed others succeeded. However all contributed to the history of flight.






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