EAA chairman Jack Pelton said Saturday that attendance at AirVenture 2014 appears higher than last year and may be up as much as double digits for some days this week. Final numbers won’t be available for a couple of weeks, but everyone AVweb spoke to during a tour of the grounds Saturday reported good foot traffic and strong sales among exhibitors.
“We’re very, very pleased. Attendance is up, camping is up, Tuesday we had to shut down general aviation parking for the first time, I think, since 2007. Some of the exhibitors had the best Monday they’ve had in a long time,” Pelton said in an interview on Saturday morning, which you can hearin this exclusive AVweb podcast.
“I was coming in this morning and it’s the typical end of the week, it’s the local Chicago-Milwaukee-Green Bay traffic and I had to wait 15 minutes to get through the stop sign because of pedestrian traffic,” he added. “I think we’ve had certain days that are up as high as 10 percent. We never get the final number for a couple of weeks afterward, but every day I get a flash report of how things are going. Our advance sales were up 8 or 9 percent before the event even opened. It feels as if it’s going to be that way. The number of people on the grounds just feels significantly higher than it was last year.” Airplane movements, Pelton said, are at least 1000 higher than in 2013.
No one we spoke was quite sure why 2014 is proving to be such a strong show, but there are theories.“The only thing I can attribute it to is that I don’t know if people just haven’t settled into stable, yet high, fuel prices for three years now. And they’ve got their heads around that and now they’re just going to save up and go,” Pelton said.
With the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds here for the first time in AirVenture history, EAA heavily promoted the airshow acts. “We tried to promote the fact that we were having the Thunderbirds and that we were having a lot of variety. The Valdez routine got a lot of buzz. For me, the One Week Wonder is one of the best things we’re doing this week,” Pelton added. Pelton said the Thunderbird show fits Oshkosh better that some of the more show-center military acts, which can be painfully noisy at times. The Thunderbirds will close AirVenture with their second full performance on Sunday.