Happy 25th: International Tent Says ‘Welcome’ in Many Tongues

Most visitors to EAA AirVenture travel a relatively short distance to be here and have numerous things in common, like a language. But since AirVenture is the premier event of type in the world, a growing number of attendees hail from points from removed from North America. AVweb's Dave Higdon spent some time this week with a few of the more than 1,000 international visitors to EAA AirVenture '99.


Aviation Is The Common Language, Regardless Of Visitors’ Homeland

England, Israel, Singapore, South Africa … It’s no secret that airplanesknow no international borders, no state limits, no artificial borders of anykind.

You can say the same thing about Oshkosh and EAA AirVenture ’99. The love ofaviation knows no boundaries, either, and the annual convention has long sincelost any semblance of an America-only event. And for 25 years, volunteers likeBarbro Whiting, Nancy Martini, Patricia Boyce and a host of others have beensaying “Welcome” in a growing array of languages to several thousandinternational visitors each year.

And this year has certainly been no exception – more than a thousand foreignvisitors were on board before the convention even made its midpoint. Monaco,France, Iceland, Canada, Hong Kong – the visitors from abroad all share a fewthings, most of all, a love of aviation, as Brazilian regular Claudio Candiotatold his fellow visitors Friday during a celebration of the InternationalCenter’s silver anniversary.

“The reason we come every year is because we’re crazy – crazy aboutairplanes,” Candiota said. “And we come because of the people and thefriendships we make, new and old, every year.”

Sound familiar? It should, since renewing old acquaintances and making newones are oft-stated reasons why many thousands of Americans say they come toOshkosh, year in, year out. Like the man said, we’re a plane-crazy crowd.

Wings Across The Waters

We can’t say when the first foreign visitor attended an EAA convention, butit seems safe to bet it was back in the Milwaukee and Rockford days. We do knowthat the International Visitors Center first went into business 25 years ago, atOshkosh. And even then, handling the out-of-country crowd was demanding,according to the vice-chairs, Whiting and Martini.

“Twenty-five years ago, we had more than 240 people from 25 countriesand we had to translate in four languages,” Martini said. “Now we havemore than 2,500 foreign visitors each year from between 75 and 80 countries, andwe translate in 21 languages.”

Some years do present particular logistical challenges that other years lack,like those years when organized tours tilt the balance of attendance heavilytoward a specific country. For example, when Qantas brought a chartered 747-400several years ago, the passenger load of more than 400 made for a huge influx ofAustralians in a few minutes, a major contrast to the 90-odd citizens of GreatBritain who can fit into the Concorde for its periodical Oshkosh pilgrimages.

But most years are like this year, with hundreds and hundreds of overseasfans of flight, mostly making their own way across thousands of miles to sufferin the sun with the natives, all equally enthralled by the arrival of a Proteusor a Monocoupe 110 Special, a vintage DC-3 or a spanking-new RV-6.

So pervasive is the international attendance here that you can find thevisitors anywhere and everywhere at any time. Sitting across the picnic tablefrom you, outside the snack bar at the Red Barn store in Camp Scholler, orparked in the shade of a Beech 18 in the Vintage airplane area, maybe resting onthe wing of a Long-EZ flown direct from Brazil, or even in the cockpit of anultralight flown all the way from South America.

Like most Oshkosh attendees, it’s hard to tell rich from poor, well-planedfrom planeless. You wouldn’t necessarily recognize an overseas visitor from onehomegrown until the annual International Parade, like the one Friday afternoon,or when you see the International Visitor badge as you reach across the table tosay “Howdy, welcome to Oshkosh.”