Airlines in loss. Military and civil programmes under threat. Business aviation in disgrace and aerospace manufacturing suffering cancelled orders, plunging revenues and redundancies. Sometimes it takes an event like AirVenture in Oshkosh to remind us that aviation - at its grass roots - is all about liberation, innovation and the sheer joy of flying.

General aviation is not immune to the economic downturn, as flying schools and small charter operators struggle and even leisure pilots fly less and put off purchases.

But - while the world's best-attended air show in the unassuming Wisconsin city has its hard business edge - most of the visitors are there to indulge their passion for flying and marvel in the latest attempt to stretch the boundaries of aerospace technology.

This year's stars of the show were the A380 - still a rare sight in the US Midwest - and Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnight Two: the mothership that will carry the first tourist spaceship towards the edge of the Earth's atmosphere.

The lack of scepticism with which Oshkosh greets such technological marvels is refreshing to those of us used to - rightly - scrutinising the commercial case for new products, whether they be superjumbo airliners or very light jets. AirVenture is not a business show in the strict sense.

Few attending the event will be stumping up the $200,000 needed for a trip in Sir Richard Branson's spaceship. Few are likely to have travelled on the A380 from the two North American airports its operators serve. The most active vendors are those offering hats and hot dogs.

However, with more than half a million visitors, Oshkosh is the perfect platform to create a buzz for a product, which is why entrepreneurs such as Branson rate it so highly and why the A380 shows up among the micro­lights, aerobatic trainers and pistons.

Executives do not have to deal with probing questions from financial journalists. Most of the scribes there are enthusiasts themselves. They are not under pressure to reveal reasons for delays to programmes. Market shares, capital outlays and risk are concepts for another day.

In a cynical age, Oshkosh worships innovators in the way that 100 years ago the Bleriots and Wrights were hailed as heroes. So amid the news analysis and hard-edged scrutiny of our industry on Flightglobal - joins in that enthusiasm and toasts the spirit of Oshkosh.


Source: Flight International