Oshkosh is such a huge event and we are so busy with daily deadlines that even spending a week there every year, it's impossible to experience all of it. I always wish I had more time to spend around the "edges" of the show, out in the fringes where you might stumble over something interesting that nobody's heard about yet. That takes a lot of time, though, and serendipity is not a viable plan when empty pages are waiting to be filled.
But you don't have to wander far to take in the sight of all those thousands of airplanes and tens of thousands of people who visit to admire them. That they come back year after year testifies to a widespread thirst for innovation and creativity. It reminds me a little of a World's Fair, where people come not only to be amazed but to be reassured that we live in a sensible world with a hopeful future. Especially this year, with our public servants in Washington in stalemate and apparently unable to behave like grownups, it was nice to see a shiny blue Boeing 787 to remind us that there must be a lot of smart and capable people hard at work somewhere, getting things done.
Big powerful airplanes weren't the only hopeful signs, though. I stopped by all-too-briefly at Teachers Day in the EAA Museum, as a speaker asked how many of the 200 or so teachers in the room were also pilots. About one-quarter or more of them raised their hands, way more than I expected. These are teachers who came to AirVenture from all around the country, and spent a day at the Museum hoping to find ways to use aviation in their classrooms, on top of everything else their administrators pile on them to do. There's nothing in it for them, but everything to be gained by the next generation.
Lots has been written about the power of aviation to inspire. It's not just a science or a technological enterprise. There's something about it that's elemental and magical and mysterious. Oshkosh helps to create that messy concoction of art, science, technology, collaboration, and enthusiasm where the next big ideas can sprout. And despite all evidence to the contrary, it helps make it possible to believe that maybe we do live in a sensible world with a hopeful future.