For one week a year, the sleepy town of Oshkosh, Wisconsin balloons in population from 66,000 to over 400,000 because of EAA Airventure Oshkosh, “the world’s greatest aviation celebration.” Restaurants, shops, police and volunteers prepare for this all year. Over 10,000 planes of all types, sizes and eras descend on this eagerly awaited aviation extravaganza.
Florida Tech’s decision to attend such a large event seemed a bit intimidating at first. How would we engage with the attendees and make them aware of our university over 1,300 miles away? It turns out a new area known as the Education and Interactive Zone (EIZ) was created by the event organizers specifically for universities. FIT had a great location right in the middle of the EIZ. With our Piper Archer aircraft with Garmin 1000 avionics and three rockets—two-stage Panther rocket, single-stage first place payload award winning rocket and single-stage freshman rocket launch competition winning rocket—we really stood out.
The grounds at Oshkosh are massive. Aviation enthusiasts interested in buying, selling or trading were in every nook and cranny of the event. Many of the attendees fly in and camp out under their planes, so there were camping stores, as well as a “fly market” (think flea market) and companies selling cutting edge technology and workshops where one can design and build their own plane, experimental airplanes and ultralights. There was also an enormous kid area and museum on flight. Among the most popular attractions at the EAA AirVenture were the daily air shows which featured famous pilots and their aircraft.
One of the large reasons for attending the event at Oshkosh is the networking opportunities. Florida Tech held a reception on Wednesday evening between the afternoon and evening flight shows. We had a great turnout of alumni, current, prospective students and their families. All were happy to mingle and all of them asked questions about the campus and instructors. The hope is that our presence at Oshkosh will continue and form a bond between our alumni, faculty and staff and prospective students. We want the world to know that FIT has a premiere flight school and is a top-notch university which is concerned with each individual student’s well-being.
All in all, the event at Oshkosh is absolute heaven for anyone that has ever dreamt of flying or can appreciate the passion of flight. It is also addicting – as one of the only members of the FIT contingent who doesn’t have any flight experience, I am now convinced that I need a private pilot license. I hope that Florida Tech’s commitment to the event at Oshkosh continues and this becomes an annual event to promote our aviation and aerospace programs. We certainly will miss the hospitality and flavor that is only found in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Blog by Nick Galli, College of Aeronautics