I've just flown back from the EAA's AirVenture in Oshkosh, officially my favourite air show, even though I am neither a pilot nor a died-in-the-wool spotter.
The show is simply phenomenal, attracting 600,000 visitors (although I'm slightly sceptical about that figure), many of whom fly-in on their own aircraft. The rather sleepy airport and the fields around it at the similarly sleepy Wisconsin city of 60,000 souls becomes for a week the busiest airport in the world in terms of movements, and a giant campsite and aircraft park which takes the best part of an hour to traverse.
Why do they come? Well Oshkosh is a fascinating mix of community (owners and clubs come together to compare aircraft and swap maintenance tips and aviation tales), air display (spectacular aerobatic performances), air museum (veteran warbirds galore) and trade show (GA manufacturers and suppliers turn up to show off and sell their wares). There isn't really another industry event like it.
For us, there are plenty of hard business stories too (see our landing page at www.flightglobal.com/oshkosh) as the show does attract plenty of CEOs and other big hitters from the OEMs.
The show proves beyond doubt that aviation and flying remain tremendously popular in North America, despite worries that the GA sector there is slowly dying. Importantly, unlike the big trade shows, it attracts families during the summer holidays, and there is plenty of interest for the kids.
What I love about it - and what ensures the manufacturers turn up in force - is that because everyone dresses casually you can never tell if the husband and wife wandering around the exhibit are a working class couple who save the pennies to take their ancient kitplane to Oshkosh once a year, or multimillionaires looking to add a jet to their portfolio of luxury personal transport. It's a very egalitarian, open show with few of the hidden-away meeting rooms where the negotiations take place at a Paris or Farnborough. Instead, the "chalets" rarely stretch beyond a small marquee or a trailer.