AirVenture: Half-Century Celebrations


One of the things that makes Oshkosh special is the simultaneous focus on past and future. Anniversaries are as much a part of AirVenture as innovations and this year there are some big names marking their half-century. From the fly-in location itself to a man on the moon, there’s a lot to be remembered 50 years later.

EAA At Oshkosh

Members of the Canadian Snowbirds aerial demonstration team perform a breakaway near the Brown Arch during EAA AirVenture at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh. Photo by David Tulis.

In 1953, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) held its first fly-in convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The event was moved to Rockford, Illinois, in 1959, where it stayed until 1969. The fly-in then came to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where it has been held every year since. This year makes the 50th consecutive fly-in to take place at Oshkosh.

“A half-century ago, EAA founder Paul Poberezny saw Oshkosh as the perfect place to bring together aviation enthusiasts,” said EAA vice president of communities and member programs Rick Larsen. “Over 50 years, nearly every significant aircraft type in the world has landed on the runways at Wittman Regional Airport to be part of the EAA fly-in. More important are the stories of the people who have come to be a part of this event and the legacy of what is now known simply as Oshkosh. That is what we will be celebrating in 2019.”

Over the last five decades, Oshkosh has been stage and showcase for some of the wildest—and most wonderful—ideas in all of aviation. During that time, millions of people and many thousands of aircraft have journeyed to Oshkosh’s Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH) for EAA’s fly-in. Last year’s event had roughly 601,000 visitors from 87 countries, along with accommodating more than 10,000 aircraft during the course of the show. This year, EAA is celebrating. Events to commemorate Oshkosh’s anniversary will take place throughout the show week.

Boeing 747

The iconic Boeing 747 flew for the first time on February 9, 1969. The aircraft entered service in January 1970 with Pan American World Airways and held the record for passenger capacity for 37 years after its introduction. In addition to carrying passengers, the 747 has been adapted for a variety of missions including hauling cargo, aerial firefighting and presidential transport.

“Over the last 50 years, the 747 has become legendary, today it is a bridge to a romantic era of flight, an era that we should continue to aspire to resurrect,” said Boeing Historian Mike Lombardi. “But more than that the 747 is a reminder of the power of the human spirit and what we can accomplish with our hearts, minds and hard work.”

According to Boeing, the 747 fleet has logged more than 57 billion nautical miles and carried more than 5.9 billion people during its first half-century. To celebrate, the company is in the process of collecting stories about the aircraft via social media and email. Stories are being shared at In addition, the jet will be featured in AirVenture programming throughout the event, which runs July 22 to July 28.


A300 First Flight
Image: Airbus (copyright)

It’s been fifty years since French Minister of Transport, Jean Chamant, and German Minister of Economic Affairs, Karl Schiller, signed an agreement for the joint development of the A300, an event which started Airbus on its way to becoming one of the largest aircraft manufacturers in the world. The agreement was signed at the 1969 Paris Air Show and the A300 flew for the first time in October 1972.

“Over five decades, we have brought together civil and defense aviation businesses from throughout the continent,” said Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury. “For 50 years, we have pioneered many firsts through our passion and innovation, transforming the industry and helping to move society forward. Airbus is a story of incredible men and women, a story of great achievements in the past and, above all, in the future.”

As part of its anniversary celebrations, Airbus published a story every day from May 29 to July 17 (50 days) to “highlight the people and groundbreaking innovations” that have influenced the company. The stories focus on a wide array of Airbus’ business ventures including programs and initiatives, commercial aircraft, helicopters, and space and defense. Stories can be viewed at

Apollo 11

Image: NASA

On July 20, 1969, man landed on the Moon for the first time. Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969, with Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin onboard. The mission lasted eight days, three hours, 18 min, 35 seconds and orbited the Earth 30 times. An estimated 650 million people watched on television as Armstrong took his—and mankind’s—first step on the lunar surface.

The 50th anniversary of that step has been widely celebrated over the past few weeks, and AirVenture has its own commemoration planned with astronaut Michael Collins as the featured guest. On Friday, July 26 at 8 p.m., he will be joined by Apollo astronaut Joe Engle at an event hosted by four-time space shuttle astronaut Charlie Precourt. “Even a half-century later, the Apollo 11 mission stands as one of the great human achievements of all time,” said EAA’s Rick Larsen. “We are honored to have Michael Collins, Joe Engle, and others take us back to the memorable ‘one giant leap for mankind.’”

Know of any other half-century aviation anniversaries being celebrated at AirVenture 2019? Tell us by leaving a comment or sending a note to