Under the (Osh)kosh
Although EAA AirVenture – more commonly referred to as Oshkosh after its Wisconsin hometown – is not well known for business aviation, an increasing number of manufacturers are choosing to take along their newest aircraft. Mind you, the eponymous kids’ clothing was being made there almost a decade before the Wright brothers launched their heavier-than-air flying machine almost 1,000 miles away in North Carolina.
But let’s get back to the present. What Oshkosh is known for, is the mind-boggling number of light aircraft that it attracts. Field after field of Piper Archers, Cessna 182s and older warbirds (peacebirds rather) can be seen in their hundreds. One video posted on YouTube in 2017 showed the journey of 116 Bonanzas/Barons/Debonairs flying in formation to the show.
But whilst Oshkosh is mostly known as a light-aircraft fly-in, it is becoming increasingly important to business aircraft manufacturers to be at the show.
That is not to say that there has never been a business aviation side to the show. During the
Very Light Jet (VLJ) fervour of ten years ago, many aircraft – most of which never saw the light of day – were either announced or on display as models and mock-ups.
Since the VLJ days, an increasing number of business aviation manufacturers have taken part in the show. In 2010 Embraer chose the show to announce its updated Phenom 100E and, in 2017, Dassault even sent its top-of-the-line business jet, the Falcon 8X, to appear in the flying display.
For Honda Aircraft, Oshkosh holds special significance. It was where the proof of concept HondaJet was first introduced and it is also the show at which the completed aircraft made its debut. Not just one, but two HondaJets appeared in public for the first time at the show in 2013.
This year, Honda will debut the HondaJet Elite in the US.
At events like NBAA-BACE and EBACE the manufacturers have the chance to talk directly to owners who might be looking to buy its aircraft. But at Oshkosh they have an entirely different opportunity to talk to a different audience.
Although many of the business aircraft on display can, and are, used in the charter market or by businesses, most of aircraft on display can be flown by owner-pilots. And that is the market that the manufacturers will be aiming at.
It is also an opportunity to meet the potential next generation of business-jet pilots and get them excited about the aircraft before they make their move up from flying single-engine aircraft.
It is, then, a very smart move by business jet manufacturers to display aircraft at Oshkosh.
For Cessna, Embraer and Honda Aircraft it has become a must-attend event. In future years it will become a must-attend event for everybody.