Wednesday, July 27, 2016

AirVenture boon for Fond du Lac County Airport (KFLD), Wisconsin

FOND DU LAC - The Fond du Lac County Airport might not be the "world's busiest," to borrow a phrase describing Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh. But both airports share having the most flights of their year during the annual EAA AirVenture convention.

The county airport estimates it will have 5,000 flight operations from July 24-31, which computes to 625 a day; normally the airport has about 150 daily operation flights. Some 550 aircraft are parked each day across its camping and paved parking areas during the week.

"We are swamped," said John Wehner, manager of the Fond du Lac County Airport in east Fond du Lac.

The airport this week also offers a taste of the smorgasbord of events at AirVenture in the form of vintage aircraft rides. Three companies are booking flights though Sunday for short excursions over Lake Winnebago and other parts of the region. Some flights offer aerobatic rides consisting of dives and turns.

On Wednesday, the airport had 216 planes camping on 50 grassy acres and 320 planes in general parking across six paved acres, Wehner said. The planes are owned by private parties and corporations flying people in mostly to attend  AirVenture. People flying in on the general-parking planes tend to stay at local hotels, Wehner said.

Between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., the airport runs a coach bus every hour from Fond du Lac to EAA and every half-hour from EAA back to Fond du Lac.

"We are gaining people every year," Wehner said. "We are not as congested (as Wittman Regional). We have easy come and go."

By mid-week, a changing of the guard occurred as some planes flew out to be replaced by other planes shuttling people in who will attend the second half of AirVenture.

At the airport, aircraft rides are available from Nostalgic Flights, Billy Werth Airshows and the Dixie Wing, part of Commemorative Air Force, which restores vintage aircraft.

The Dixie Wing flies World War II planes, a P-51 Mustang and a SB-2C Hell Diver. Costs range from $995 to $1,595, depending on plane and ride length.

"They expect a lot and they usually tell us they got more than they expected," Dixie Wing pilot Jim Buckley said of customers.

Nostalgic Flights runs a World War II AT6-G. Flights cost between $300 and $500. Company co-owner John Shuttleworth is a Warbird pilot in the EAA show.

On Tuesday, a 77-year-old woman took a 30-minute flight over Lake Winnebago and loved it, said company co-owner Erin Shuttleworth.

"We've never had an unhappy passenger," she said.

Aircraft rides, Fond du Lac County Airport:

Nostalgic Flights flies a World War II AT6-G. Call 260-450-7350
Billy Werth Airshows flies a Pitts S-2C. Call 317-379-2622
The Dixie Wing flies World War II planes, a P-51 and SB-2C. Call 678-457-3507
The Fond du Lac County Airport is running helicopter rides. Call 926-0653

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