Aerial Firefighting Demo Impresses Crowds During EAA AirVenture.

The annual AirVenture show rolled into Oshkosh, Wisconsin again in 2019, celebrating its 50th year in the Midwest. This year bringing with it record crowds and a yearly pilgrimage of thousands of pilots ready to soak in everything that aviation had to offer for the 2019 show.

This year’s show brought a total of over 642,000 aviation enthusiasts to AirVenture. The number breaking last year’s attendance record for EAA with a 6.8% increase from 2018’s record high attendance. Over 10,000 planes arrived at Whittman Regional Airport, who’s controllers handled over 16,000 aircraft operations throughout the show, equating to 127 takeoff’s and landings an hour.

The Viking Canadair CL-215 cast striking contrast with it’s high visibility paint during its water drop operations during its aerial firefighting demonstration. Photo by Ryan Mason

AirVenture this year, like many others, faced its share of trials. Severe storms in the lead up to the show caused headaches for staff and volunteers as constant rain, and thunderstorms caused the temporary closure of the “North 40” camping and aircraft parking area due to the wet ground.

In previous years, multiple aircraft had become stuck in the north 40 after bad weather. It fell on EAA’s army of volunteers, not wanting a repeat,  to relocate many hundreds of aircraft until conditions improved. Fortunately, perfect conditions reigned in the days following, which allowed for the full cadre of aircraft scheduled to arrive a place to park their aircraft.

EAA’s CEO, Jack Pelton remarked on the show “What I’m most proud of this year is how our volunteers, staff, and the community joined to overcome the challenges resulting from the massive storms that hit the airport and campground just prior to opening day. It took a true team effort to meet the additional demands on time and resources to provide services to our members and visitors.”

Aerial firefighting was represented in multiple locations on the EAA grounds this year, with the AT-802 in a prime location at the left of show center for the majority of this year’s show.

Both Thrush aircraft and Air Tractor who field firefighting aircraft exhibited at this year’s AirVenture show in the National Agricultural Aviation Association booth. Each providing aircraft on static display around the booth and staff on hand to answer questions from the many thousands of interested attendees.

Albany, GA based Thrush Aircraft, along with Olney, TX based Air Tractor who both produce SEAT Firefighting Aircraft attended the show within the NAAA booth at the 2019 AirVenture show. Photo by Ryan Mason/AerialFire
The NAAA booth was a popular location during the show this year, with aircraft from Air Tractor and Thrush on display.

Always looking for unique flight displays – the team at AirVenture arranged for dozens of new airshow performances. Each adding to the already packed schedule of crowd favorites like Patty Wagstaff, Sean Tucker and the Red Bull AirForce returning to  AirVenture.

The 2019 show featured for the first time, a show performance unlike any others – the first aerial firefighting demonstration at AirVenture during the airshow on Tuesday and Wednesday of this year’s event.

Air Tractor’s AT-802, a Canadair CL-215, and an Air National Guard AC-130 fitted with a Modular Aerial Firefighting System (MAFFS) wowed thousands of onlookers during Tuesday’s performance. Each performing a mock fire drop over show center, making multiple passes to extinguish a pallet fire set between the runways to simulate a wildfire line.

The Air National Guard participated in this year’s aerial firefighting demonstration with their AC-130 firebomber fitted with MAFFS system. Photo by Ryan Mason/AerialFire

Wednesday’s show added the participation of a Shrike Commander that performed an overwatch role. Wednesday’s performance being closer to a full-scale aerial firefighting simulation that featured the addition of full scenario audio communications. Communications for the operation were then broadcast to the thousands viewing the demonstration on the ground as the aircraft dropped thousands of gallons of water on show central.

The Air Tractor AT-802 piloted by Michael Hutchins begins a water drop at the 2019 AirVenture show aerial firefighting demonstration. Photo by Ryan Mason/AerialFire

All in all, the 2019 show was a success for both EAA and the aerial firefighting industry. If crowd reaction is anything to go by, hopefully, this will not be the only time aerial firefighting is demonstrated at the annual EAA AirVenture show.

To check out video of this year’s aerial firefighting demo, see our videos below.

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