OSHKOSH, Wis., Aug. 1 (Reuters) – The wings of a Boeing 737 MAX airliner swept through lush green fields populated by colorful small planes, giving a rare corporate touch to the world’s largest popular airshow last week .
EAA AirVenture brought together over half a million aviation enthusiasts and thousands of vintage or homemade aircraft and aerobatic shows in Oshkosh, Wis., For a celebration dubbed the Woodstock of the ‘aviation.
For a week, the annual summer event becomes the busiest airspace in the world with more than 100 takeoffs or landings per hour.
With marquee events like the Paris Airshow canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Oshkosh this year provided a tempting showcase for industry leaders like Boeing (BA.N) and United Airlines (UAL.O) – a reminder of what is at stake for an industry to overcome its worst crisis yet.
A year ago, American airlines were struggling with a surplus of pilots. Now that travel demand is picking up faster than expected, they are rushing to fill hiring pipelines and attract young people into the industry, a change from the slow recovery from previous crises.
“If you had told me last year that I would be in this event, that I would have a way to get to United Airlines, I would have told you you were crazy,” said John Pama, a 21-year-old. years. graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
Pama was one of 30 potential young pilots United landed in Oshkosh on a brand new 737 MAX branded with the “Aviate” logo for its pilot recruiting program.
The airline plans to hire 350 pilots this year, 1,500 by 2022 and 3,000 by 2023.
The Boeing 737, eclipsed by its larger cousin 777 at airports like United’s Chicago O’Hare, stood out from the sea of small planes dotted around the Wisconsin countryside, many with tents pitched under their wings where spectators stay for the week-long event.
Elsewhere at the show, Boeing teamed up with rival Airbus (AIR.PA) for a presentation on efforts to prevent the spread of viruses like COVID-19 during flight.
Yet, unlike the emphasis on corporate messaging at the top Paris and Farnborough airshows, England, only a handful of people attended.
In contrast, crowded forums nearby featured experts discussing small aircraft topics such as “How healthy is your engine?” All while warbirds and aerobatic planes soared above.
The jamboree, which itself was canceled last year due to the pandemic, ends Sunday after organizers expect record attendance, despite a sharp drop in international visitors due to travel restrictions related to COVID-19.
“The crowd this year is a predominantly American audience,” said Dick Knapinski, spokesperson for the show’s organizers, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).
Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; edited by Tim Hepher and Diane Craft
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