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Flying High: Troop 33 visits 2005 AirVenture

Each day, the air show began with a skydiver show with giant U.S. flags. Provided photo

Troop 33 recently returned from the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis., billed as the "World's Greatest Aviation Celebration." The event is sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association, which is headquartered in Oshkosh. The Scouts who experienced the AirVenture felt it was an incredible adventure. The multi-day event drew about 750,000 people, with an average daily attendance of 150,000. Among the hundreds of aircraft they saw fly was Virgin Atlantic's Global Flyer. Pilot Steve Fossett made history last March when he soloed in the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer, flying around the world in 67 straight hours. From Salina, Kan., he flew around the world and back to Salina without stopping or refueling. As a former Boy Scout, Fossett had earned the rank of Eagle Scout, which he still regards as one of his proudest accomplishments. Fossett is still active in the Scouting program, serving as a member of the World Scout Committee, and once said, "I think that each record I break is like earning a new and higher Scout award." Watching the Global Flyer in flight, piloted by Fossett, was one of the highlight events of Troop 33's visit. The Scouts also saw "Glacier Girl," a World War II P-38 recovered from under 268 feet of ice from the Greenland icecap. After being buried for 50 years, it finally was recovered and restored to flying condition. On July 15, 1942, a flight of six P-38s and two B-17 bombers with 25 crew members on board became the "Lost Squadron." Bad weather forced them to land their planes on a glacier in Greenland, where the men later were rescued. They left the planes where they landed. In its time, the P-38 Lightning was the fastest aircraft in the American military. Of the more than 10,000 P-38s built, fewer than 10 remain airworthy today. Scouts witnessed a piece of history flying overhead as the Glacier Girl ascended into the skies over Oshkosh. Troop 33 Scouts also experienced the world's first privately funded manned space program, which included SpaceShipOne and its carrier aircraft White Knight. These historic aircraft, which fly in tandem, made their first - and only - public air show appearance at AirVenture. Scouts had the opportunity to see them up close and also aloft in flight. From Oshkosh, the aircraft flew directly to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C., where they will remain on display. It was another historic event for the Scouts to witness. Besides Fossett, other famous aviators like legendary General Chuck Yeager visited the EAA AirVenture. Earlier in the week, actor and aviator Cliff Robertson was there. The grandson of Charles Lindbergh and the granddaughter of General James Doolittle each made presentations about their famous grandfathers. Another celebrity at the show was billionaire Sir Richard Branson, the man behind Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipOne and Virgin Atlantic's Global Flyer. While at Oshkosh, Branson announced a joint venture with business partner Burt Rutan, signing an agreement to form The Spaceship Company - jointly owned by Branson's Virgin Group and Rutan's Scaled Composites. The Spaceship Company plans to build the world's first commercial passenger spacecraft. Virgin Galactic will be the world's first commercial flight operation offering a sub-orbital space flight experience for its passengers. Branson also had been a Boy Scout while growing up in the United Kingdom. The Scouts also enjoyed mock WWII air battles featuring a fleet of B-17 bombers with fighter escorts, complete with an elaborate pyrotechnic show on the ground simulating a bombing run. Another highlight was several small acrobatic planes doing amazing flying stunts. Each day was opened by a group of men parachuting out of a plane with giant American flags trailing beneath them. The EAA Museum is very large and was extremely impressive. The Scout enjoyed exploring the museum and its hundreds of exhibits, especially the many hands-on demonstrations. Acres of EAA grounds were covered with countless other static displays, exhibits, vendors and sales promotions. Scouts wandered the area, barely having time to catch a glimpse of it all. Troop 33 camped in tents on site with 40,000 other campers. They used bicycles to travel back and forth between their campsite and the various EAA AirVenture locations spread across the sprawling site. The world's largest aviation celebration was very well run and well organized. The Scouts really enjoyed their visit and unanimously recommend the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh as an event worth attending. Troop 33 is sponsored by the First Lutheran Church in DeKalb. Visit the AirVenture online at www.airventure.org/ 2005/news/050630_highlights.html.

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