EAA To Expand Educational Offerings With First Facility Addition In Decades

Oshkosh Museum Is Building Permanent Homes For Some AirVenture Attractions

A view inside EAA's museum in Oshkosh
EAA is expanding its Oshkosh site to include additional education opportunities for kids and adults, officials announced Monday, April 26, 2021. The new facility is set to open in 2022, and will add to the organization’s existing offerings, including its museum, shown here. Megan Hart/ WPR

The Experimental Aircraft Association will expand its Oshkosh aviation center for the first time in more than 20 years.

Officials broke ground on the site Monday. The 30,000-square-foot addition, which is set to be completed in 2022, will allow EAA to provide year-round educational and pilot training opportunities that are typically only available during its annual AirVenture event.

Fundraising is 90 percent complete for the $6.2 million project, said EAA CEO Jack Pelton.

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The two-story facility will feature EAA’s Pilot Proficiency Center on the main floor. An AirVenture attraction since 2016, this permanent addition to the museum will include Red Bird simulators to help general aviation pilots practice for scenarios like loss of control or dangerous weather conditions.

“Our plan is to offer and host workshops, clinics and seminars aimed at student pilots, current pilots and flight instructors,” EAA Vice President Rick Larsen said.

On the second floor, the new Youth Aviation Center will feature hands-on exhibits to help kids learn STEM through the lens of aviation. One highlight will be a low-speed wind tunnel, Larsen said.

“For the local community, this expansion represents a new resource for our children, schools and teachers,” he said.

EAA CEO Jack Pelton speaks at a ground breaking
On Monday, April 26, 2021, EAA CEO Jack Pelton discusses the new addition to the organization’s Oshkosh facility. The planned expansion is scheduled to open in 2022 and feature education opportunities previously available at AirVenture. Megan Hart/WPR

EAA will work with Wisconsin schools to integrate its educational offerings with their curriculums, Larsen said. Major airlines have signed on to participate in the project with the aim of inspiring the next generation of aviation professionals, Pelton said.

“It’s not about just pilots,” he said. “You need technicians, you need mechanics, you need accountants, you need marketing people. To run an airline takes lots and lots of good, high-paying jobs.”

The EAA Aviation Center in Oshkosh opened to the public in 1983, and the facility’s last addition occurred in 1999. A grand opening for the expansion is planned for AirVenture 2022.

After canceling last year’s annual fly-in due to the coronavirus pandemic, EAA is planning to host AirVenture 2021 this summer. A representative from Ghidorzi and Associates, the Wausau firm that designed the addition, said he’s hopeful that enough steel will be up this summer to allow AirVenture attendees to see the building as it comes together.

In 2019, the fly-in event brought more than 600,000 people to the Oshkosh area. A 2017 study from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh showed the event has an economic impact of $170 million on the Fox Valley each year. The new educational facility will deepen the organization’s relationship to Oshkosh, Pelton said.

“People, when they come here once a year, recognize that this is a place that really is the center of all recreational and general aviation activities, so it’s long overdue that we really back that up with a facility that can be used year round,” he said.

His organization has heard from a variety of aviation groups that plan to make use of EAA’s new education offerings, he said.

“It’ll help benefit the local restaurants, the hotels and the economy in the general area,” he said.