Oshkosh Gets Air Show Thanks To This Wisconsin Aviation Enthusiast

Oshkosh Gets Air Show Thanks To This Wisconsin Aviation Enthusiast

For a week this month, an airport in Oshkosh will be the busiest in the world. We’ve got the late Wisconsin aviation enthusiast Paul Poberezny to thank for that.

The year Paul Poberezny was born, 1921, aviation was in its infancy too. Amelia Earhart had just taken her first flying lesson. And Charles Lindbergh had yet to complete his famous trans-Atlantic flight.

Like both Earhart and Lindbergh, Poberezny developed a fascination with flying at a young age. By 15, he’d already fixed up and piloted his first plane – a single-seat glider that he got from one of his high school teachers. By 21, he was teaching World War II pilots how to fly. By 32, he and a few of his friends had founded an organization, the Experimental Aircraft Association, devoted to helping other aviators design and build their own planes.

“People always ask how I felt starting this organization,” Poberezny was quoted as saying in his 1996 biography. “I didn’t feel anything, because none of us knew at the time what it would become. To us, it was just another flying club.”

The EAA started small. It had about three dozen members in 1953, its first year.


Where: Oshkosh

When: July 22-28

These days, it has over 200,000.

And its signature event, a convention called AirVenture, which has been held in Oshkosh every year since 1970, is staggering in its size and scope.

“When people come for the first time, they always say they had no idea,” EAA CEO and Chairman Jack Pelton explains. “They think you just show up at an airport to watch some planes fly around. But it’s a huge, weeklong celebration.”

Last year, more than 600,000 people from 87 countries came. And the celebration will likely be even bigger this year, because it marks a major milestone.

Poberezny, who passed away in 2013, won’t be around to attend. But his legacy lives on in the memories of the people who still gather every July to bond over their love of aviation.

Audrey and Paul Poberezny in front of modified P-51s at Reno, Nevada, where Paul was chief judge of the Reno Air Races for many years. Photo courtesy of EAA.

Paul Poberezny and son Tom at an airport in the early 1950s. Photo courtesy of EAA.

Mile Highlights

The 2019 AirVenture marks its 50th straight year in Oshkosh. If you decide to make the trek northward to check out the convention’s big celebration, which touches down July 22-28, you won’t want to miss these essential experiences.

An Astronaut In Residence

Apollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins will be honored at the convention this year in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of America’s first lunar landing. Along with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Collins was one of three astronauts who embarked on 1969’s historic moon mission.

Aerial Firefighting Displays

Firefighters don’t just depend on big red trucks. They also use specially designed planes to put out forest fires quickly and efficiently. At the convention this year, visitors can see these vehicles up close, and meet some of the firefighters who pilot them.

Drone Light

More than 100 lighted drones will take to the skies on July 24 and 27 as part of a synchronized, remote-controlled demonstration. The company that puts on the show is one of only two in the country authorized to do so.

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An Air Show Above MKE

A little closer to home than AirVenture, the Milwaukee Air & Water Show also takes place this month, July 27-28. The lakefront show features an aerial demonstration from the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds that’s sure to include plenty of spectacular loops, rolls and high-speed passes. [/alert]

“High Flyers” appears in the July 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning July 1, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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Lindsey Anderson covers culture for Milwaukee Magazine. Before joining the MilMag team she worked as an editor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and wrote freelance articles for ArtSlant and Eater.