OSHKOSH, Wisconsin—Violent thunderstorms on July 19-20 dumped more than 6 in. of rain in less than 24 hr. on the EAA AirVenture show grounds here, causing hundreds of general aviation pilots to divert to alternate air fields.

Some may have been so discouraged that they returned to their home bases, one EAA board member said. But dry weather forecast for Monday, July 22, and the rest of the event may lure most flyers back, says Jack Pelton, EAA chairman and CEO.

“It’s great to be here and not floating away,” quipped Pelton. On Monday afternoon, sizable portions of grassy airplane camping areas remained too waterlogged and too soft to support aircraft landing gear, particularly areas used by vintage and some types of experimental aircraft. Most of EAA’s Camp Scholler, a favorite parking spot for heavyweight Class A motor homes and house trailers, remained too soft and muddy for space renters.

But Pelton remains upbeat for this year’s show. “Our volunteers just ask ‘How do we get it done?’” he said. EAA’s volunteer force is one of the most enthusiastic and capable teams supporting any aviation event, Pelton said. He cited one volunteer who dived under the muck beneath a large motor home at Camp Scholler to attach a tow line to a large farm tractor to pull the motor home to safety. Pelton said when he attempted to thank the volunteer, the person just responded, “It’s our job to ensure these people have a good time.”

EAA has also reached out to owners of general aviation aircraft that were flown to the first EAA Oshkosh event in 1970. Several owners have flown these aircraft to this year’s event and parked them just east of EAA’s famed “brown arch” gateway a few hundred yards west of Runway 18/36.

By Monday afternoon, a few hundred aircraft had arrived here, all of which are parked either on paved areas or high grass. None appear to be stuck in soft ground. The spirits of airplane campers are high. Two pilots pulled out fishing rods and pretended to be angling in large puddles adjoining the grass parking areas.

Pelton said the 50th anniversary celebration of EAA’s being headquartered here, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo XI Moon landing and the 75th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day allied assault at Normandy will be strong draws. EAA worked closely with the Supple brothers, who own Oshkosh’s Fox River Brewing Company, to develop a 50th anniversary craft beer for the event.

“We conducted extensive tastings before we decided on the best brew,” Pelton joked. The limited edition craft beer is named “Rock Your Wings” and is proving quite popular with the EAA crowd, he said.

The main 2019 event has many attractions. Fedex is flying in a B747-400F freight to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Boeing jumbo jet. World War II ace Col. Bud Anderson, now well into his mid-90s, will be on hand to talk about the role of the North American P-51 in escorting C-47 and C-53 transports on D-Day. More than 30 Mustangs have arrived to participate in a large formation flyover. As many as 50 P-51 aircraft may participate. The first XP-51 Mustang and first XP-82 Twin Mustang prototypes will make appearances.

On July 25, EAA members will have a chance to meet acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell and ask questions about FAA policies. On July 26, Astronaut Michael Collins will give a talk about the Apollo XI Moon mission. Pelton says 2019 preregistrations are 16% ahead of last year. He expects near-record attendance in spite of this year’s soggy start.