Aviation firms prepare for Oshkosh

Jul. 19--When this year's annual EAA AirVenture Oshkosh opens next week, more than 750,000 people -- including many from the Wichita area -- are expected to attend.

The country's biggest air show attracts a cross section of the aviation industry -- from those who fly ultralights and home-built planes to government officials and corporate leaders. The fly-in and convention runs Monday through July 29.

It's a great place to talk about airplanes to other enthusiasts from around the world, attend some of the more than 500 forums and workshops, and see the top personalities in aviation, organizers say.

The first show in 1953 was attended by less than 100 people and featured a handful of airplanes.

At this year's event, more than 700 exhibitors will take part, including Hawker Beechcraft. It will celebrate the company's 75th anniversary and the 60th anniversary of the Beechcraft Bonanza.

The show and convention is important because of the number of people it draws from all areas of aviation, said Beechcraft spokesman Mike Turner.

"For the Beechcraft product line, because it is more focused on the owner-flown market, it's a key show," Turner said.

The company, founded by Wichitan Walter Beech, is celebrating in Oshkosh with a party Sunday evening for about 1,000 people, said spokeswoman Jackie Berger.

On Saturday, more than 100 pilots flying Bonanzas and Barons of all models will meet in Rockford, Ill., and fly in formation the rest of the way to the show. The annual event will include nearly all 40 models of Bonanzas from each of the 60 years the aircraft has been in production.

The company's chairman and chief executive, Jim Schuster, will fly with the group in a special-edition Bonanza.

On Sunday, Cessna Aircraft will unveil its light sport aircraft and the details of the plane at a news conference. The company announced earlier this month that it is moving forward with the program.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com [mailto:mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com]

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