A primer of what to expect and what to do at the Annual Gathering at Waupaca and AirVenture.
In just a few short months we’ll be heading to Wisconsin for the Annual Gathering at Waupaca and AirVenture. If you are too, here are some tips for the newbies—and reminders for the old hands.
Situated about 28 nm from Oshkosh (as the “Piper” flies), Waupaca, Wisconsin, is a small town with a population that hovers at about 6,000. It was incorporated as a city March 5, 1875. It’s situated in an area of green rolling hills, picturesque farms, lakes and rivers. Waupaca Municipal Airport (KPCZ) sits about 3 miles from the “city center.”
Occasionally members will ask me why we hold our annual member event (The Gathering at Waupaca) in this small town in the middle of Wisconsin. It makes more sense when you know that we started the association nearby and had a hangar at KPCZ for a number of years. The other reason is that by holding our event in proximity (both in time and location) to AirVenture, we are able to provide our attendees with a really special experience.
Many of you fly into the AirVenture grounds and camp there for the duration and we know that’s a fantastic way to experience the show. But some of you don’t want to fly in such busy airspace and/or you don’t want to camp. The Gathering provides an alternative that allows you to fly into a small and very nice airport, sleep in a nice hotel room and get dropped off near the front gate of AirVenture via a luxury motor coach.
If you’ll be flying in for the Gathering, you need to be aware that while KPCZ is not as busy as Wittman Regional (KOSH) at this time of year (nowhere near!), it does host an aerobatic box above the field for the week and is the launching ground for the Cherokees 2 Oshkosh mass arrival to AirVenture Saturday, July 21. The aerobatic box is not always hot, and our attendees have never had a problem working around it.
KPCZ boasts two runways and a 24-hour self-serve fuel farm offering 100LL and Jet-A. Runway 13/31 is 3,899 feet by 75 feet and Runway 10/28 is 5,200 feet by 100 feet. There is generally ample space on the ramp for aircraft parking.
Registered attendees of the Gathering will receive an email a few days prior to the event with the most up-to-date info, as well as procedures for determining if the aerobatic box is hot. You’ll still need to be sure to check Notams and do your usual flight planning (you always do, right?) as the information we’ll provide is not a substitute for that.
KPCZ airport manager Beth Andersen and her crew at Plane Guys Aviation are always helpful, so you can reach out to them with any specific questions regarding airport operations.
Some attendees prefer to drive to the Gathering, and that’s fine, too.
“You’ve arrived at your destination”
Upon landing and after getting your gear together, proceed toward the terminal building. Staff from the Piper Flyer Association may or may not be on the field at the time you arrive, but you should see a Waupaca School District van nearby—that’s our shuttle to and from the airport and hotel.
If the van is not there, it’s probably
on a run and it will be a short wait for it to return.
The shuttle will run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, July 21. If you arrive outside shuttle hours, the Waupaca Taxi service is prompt and cheap. Besides prearranging for a rental car, these are your only options for transportation to the hotels. No Uber to be found here.
The shuttle will drop you off at the Comfort Suites Foxfire to check in and get settled, but you’ll want to catch that shuttle back to the airport by 6 p.m. for our Welcome Reception.
We’ll have a registration table set up just inside the municipal hangar. After checking in and getting your goody bag, you can grab some grub and a drink (or two) and check out the Boss 182 on floats that sponsor Wipaire will have on site. Try not to drool on the upholstery.
“Excuse me, is this chair taken?”
Sunday morning you’ll need to get up early, get some breakfast (provided by the hotel) and walk the few dozen feet over to the Waupaca Ale House conference center for a full slate of seminars in the morning. Lunch will be provided and we’ll have a couple more seminars after.
One of the most anticipated aspects of the events—the door prize drawing—takes place after the last seminar. We always have really nice aviation prizes to hand out and I guarantee you won’t go home empty-handed.
The evening’s banquet will also be at the Waupaca Ale House beginning at 6 p.m.
“On to Oshkosh, on to Oshkosh” (sung to the tune of “On Wisconsin”)
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the chartered motor coach will be in front of the hotel by 7 a.m. for a 7:30 a.m. departure.
Many of our past attendees rate the bus ride to and from AirVenture as one of the best aspects of the event. It allows everyone time to relax and socialize. Beverages are provided on board.
“It’s a really big show”
If you’ve been to AirVenture, you don’t need an introduction and if you haven’t been, no description will prepare you for what you’re going to find when you pass under “the gate” and enter pilot nirvana.
Suffice it to say that AirVenture is the biggest, baddest, best airshow you’re likely to attend. And it is truly huge. There is so much to see: hundreds of vendors selling aviation products, static displays of new aircraft, row upon row of warbirds, a virtual sea of vintage aircraft, ultralights, the “North 40” jam-packed with aircraft that have flown in, seaplanes at the seaplane base—if it’s part of aviation, it’s at AirVenture.
Stats from 2017 tell the story: there were 17,223 aircraft operations in the 10-day period from July 21–30 at Wittman. Showplanes on site numbered in the thousands, including 1,107 homebuilt aircraft; 1,162 vintage airplanes; 351 warbirds; 168 ultralights and light-sport aircraft; 79 seaplanes; 54 rotorcraft; 60 aerobatic aircraft and 10 hot air balloons.
There are seminars and fun events throughout the day, and of course the daily airshow featuring amazing aerobatic feats.
There’s even an entire area devoted to the younger generation—KidVenture—where kids can spend the day having fun and learning about aviation.
You’ll want to map out a plan of action to get to the attractions and vendors you really want to see first. Trust me, you can’t do it all in one day. Luckily there’s an AirVenture app to help you out. Find it on the App Store (Apple) and Google Play (Android).
“Did I mention it was big?”
I asked Dick Knapinski, Director of Communications for EAA, for the stats on the size of the AirVenture grounds. “[The] grounds are approximately 1,500 acres, about half of which is Winnebago County-owned Wittman Regional Airport (that’s everything inside the chain-link fence). The rest of it, including the museum area, campground, maintenance buildings and the like, is ours.”
With that much ground to cover, your Fitbit will be busy, and you’ll have no trouble racking up those daily steps. There are trams that run throughout the grounds and throughout the day, but you’ll likely still be hoofing it at least part of the time. Be sure to wear really comfortable, supportive shoes.
ADA access is available to all AirVenture venues, including the EAA AirVenture Museum and other accommodations are available including rentals of single-seat personal electric conveyance vehicles. Please check the AirVenture website for more information.
Weather can range from just right, to cool and windy, to hot and muggy—with a chance of thunderstorms thrown in for good measure. Bring sunscreen and a rain poncho and insect repellent. Every day.
“See you there”
We sure hope you’ll join us in Waupaca, but if you’ll be heading directly to AirVenture, please stop by booth 3126 in Hangar C (Note: new booth location this year) and say hi to the friendly staff and volunteers of your Piper Flyer Association.
The Gathering at Waupaca
Plane Guys Aviation LLC
Waupaca Municipal Airport (KPCZ)