AirVenture’s Last Day

Wayne Flury is co-chairman of the announcer’s stand and a homebuilder.

AirVenture is an organism that obeys no calendar. The Friday prior to this year’s opening the airport was as full as I’ve ever seen it. The announcer stand was active and the voice of my friend and fellow homebuilder Wayne Flury—one of two voices you’d recognize as a voice of EAA—was projecting from the flightline’s speakers. Food vendors were open and serving. Food could be difficult to find in previous years. People were everywhere. Everywhere. I dare say if one were dropped on the AirVenture grounds any of the three days leading to opening day they’d be hard pressed to say if the official convention had begun or not. The only giveaway would be the many vendors and contractors still placing airplanes, arborvitaes and wood chips in booths.

Rachel Weseman of Sport Performance Aviation and Mark Schaible of Sonex take full advantage of Vendor Bonding Day.
Arion Aircraft suffered elevator damage during Friday night’s storm. Sunday morning the repairs for the flight home were being finalized.

In contrast, the last day has vast areas of empty, trampled grass where airplanes once sat. There is a football field of open space between the few remaining Mustangs and the last remaining P-40 in Fightertown. Homebuilt camping is dotted with the few remaining campers, mostly drying their equipment to avoid carrying eight pounds of water home in their towels, tents and sleeping bags. Most food vendors are closed but, unlike previous years when food was nearly impossible to find on Sunday, one did not need to look too hard to find sustenance. Some vendors were packing up; some were gone. Those vendors had little to offer us homebuilders, anyway. The voices of EAA were muted as a crew of volunteers efficiently fell one speaker pole after another as they worked the flightline from north to south. Somehow, the last day of AirVenture is also the coolest. I could pause to tie a shoe without disrupting the flow of people. The last day is my favorite day.

The exhibit buildings are open and airy on the last day. No need to fight Saturday’s crawling masses if you stay until Sunday.

I’ve written in the past that vendors call the last day Vendor Bonding Day. While some vendors see the last day as a waste, I disagree. Over the many years I worked for Sonex I saw enthusiastic people come on the last day–the only day their schedule allowed them to attend—just to explore the Sonex. I’m sure other vendors have experienced the same. (I once bought a book out of Marge Bong Drucker’s truck just before she drove away. Marge was Dick Bong’s wife. Dick Bong is America’s leading Ace with 40 victories. Marge’s high school photo was on Bong’s P-38. She was known as “the most shot-after girl in the Pacific.”) It’s a win-win for serious customers and vendors alike as conversations can be carried on without interruption.

A last minute repair was needed before this RV could carry its owner home. (left) A camper dries their gear before departure. (right)
The chairs in the forum buildings are folded and stacked in hopes that AirVenture 2024 soon will be there.

It’s also true that vendors can be worn out from the week and, facing booth break-down and the long trip home, are less-than-thrilled when someone with questions comes at 11 AM on Sunday. That’s the price of doing business at AirVenture. I hope no homebuilders were disenfranchised by vexed vendors. As for me, I explored a teardrop trailer kit—coincidently designed by a Sonex owner I once supported—and haggled for two aluminum prop blades I will polish and display in some manner in my home. Mostly, I soaked up the atmosphere and the wonder of it all while mourning its end. As I write this on Monday morning, with a stray military jet compelling my nose to my kitchen window as it departs for home, my thoughts are already on next year.

The RV-15 got fitted with running shoes for the flight home.

There will always be a last day at AirVenture. Over the years EAA has played with the convention’s length and both starting and ending days to make the last day viable. I think they’ve done about as well as they can. I shall close this report as it opened; AirVenture is an organism that obeys no calendar.

Sunday morning Boeing Plaza was still populated with Lockheed aircraft.
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Kerry Fores
Kerry Fores was born and raised in Oshkosh, WI and was interested in homebuilding by age 12. Between 1998 and 2003 he scratchbuilt and polished a Sonex, which he named Metal Illness. Kerry logged nearly 500 hours in Metal Illness and was awarded Plans Built Champion at AirVenture 2006. Kerry is retired from a 21-year career at Sonex Aircraft, most of it dedicated to supporting builders. Kerry is on the web at


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