The United Nations of Oshkosh
Flying. The other universal language.
- By James Wynbrandt
- Photographs by Arnold Greenwell
- Air & Space magazine, July 2011
(Page 4 of 4)
Almost all Brazilians travel to Oshkosh in a group, joined by South Americans from neighboring countries. The year after his first visit in 1982, lawyer Claudio Candiota began arranging Oshkosh travel packages. The Brazilians’ bivouac at the University of Wisconsin dormitories—open for AirVenture participants when the facilities would otherwise be empty—is the scene of lively nightly “meetings,” as Candiota calls them.
“The dorms don’t have TVs, no telephones, so people get together and become friends,” he said. “We talk about what we saw that day at the show while having a few beers—a typical pilot’s daily chat.”
Such has been Candiota’s contribution to the number of visitors to Oshkosh that during AirVenture 2010, Oshkosh Mayor Paul Esslinger proclaimed a “Claudio Candiota Day.” The official recognition hints at another important impact foreign visitors have at Oshkosh: an economic one. Many arrive with a shopping list and most leave with more than just memories. Though there are no statistics available on the economic boost generated by international visitors alone, they were part of a survey conducted by the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh in 2008. The survey estimated that the event brought $110 million to the area that year. Event vendors also benefit.
“You’ll see people with suitcases full of stuff,” said vintage-aircraft expert Roy Fox beside the rare Compers Swift he brought all the way from Australia to display. “They come back with instruments and things like airspeed indicators, which are much cheaper here, so it makes the journey financially viable.”
Candiota estimated at least 30 experimental-aircraft kits purchased at the airshow are under construction in Brazil, and noted that a few years ago his contingent’s purchases wouldn’t all fit in their ground transportation. “We had to rent an additional truck to carry the avionics and parts” to the departure airport, he said.
Spend a little time with the internationals and it’s obvious the relationships forged here transcend borders and cultural differences. Many talk of visiting friends made here, keeping in touch by e-mail, and helping out pilots who tap into the international network when traveling abroad. And 2010 may have marked a new era in international relations, made possible by social media. Last spring AirVenture created a Facebook page, and several international visitors cited the Facebook connection as their impetus for coming. That’s what brought the four Portuguese friends together here, and they said friends back home were now following their adventures via Facebook and Twitter, and were in turn vowing to make their own first trips to Oshkosh this summer.
James Wynbrandt, a pilot and writer, has attended every AirVenture since 1994 and writes for AirVenture Today, the show’s daily newspaper.