EAA AirVenture Museum Celebrates 100th Anniversary Of Steve Wittman’s Birth April 3-5
EAA AVIATION CENTER, OSHKOSH, Wis. - (March 26, 2004) - The EAA AirVenture Museum is celebrating the 100th birth anniversary of the late Steve Wittman, one of Oshkosh’s and Wisconsin’s most famous aviators, with special activities April 3-5.
Activities include guided tours of EAA’s Wittman Hangar, located at the museum’s Pioneer Airport, as well as a special “Memories of Steve” evening program at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 5, that will include comments from many of Wittman’s close friends who he knew through his years as a renowned aircraft designer, builder and racer.
“There are very few people who can claim the legacy that Steve Wittman established in so many fields of aviation,” said Adam Smith, EAA AirVenture Museum Director. “He was a lifelong resident of the Fox Valley and we are proud that Oshkosh can claim him as its own. As part of EAA’s mission to preserve aviation history, we will celebrate Steve’s life and contributions, since his dedication to the world of flight helped make Oshkosh the home of sport aviation.”
Wittman was born on April 5, 1904, in Byron, Wis., just a short distance south of Oshkosh. He began designing and building airplanes in the 1920s, and was soon racing his creations successfully against the top pilots of the famed “Golden Age of Air Racing” era of the 1920s and 1930s. He operated as an independent racer against the nation’s best competitors, who were usually financed by large corporations.
Wittman’s contributions reached far beyond racing, however, though he continued competing well into his 80s. His aircraft designs, such as the Wittman Tailwind, Buttercup and others, are still being constructed today, while his spring-steel landing gear design was adopted by Cessna and eventually used in thousands of small airplanes. As a flight instructor, Wittman trained hundreds of military pilots during the World War II era and countless more throughout his 70-plus years of flying.
An early member and supporter of the fledgling Experimental Aircraft Association, Wittman helped nurture the organization as an aircraft builder and as manager of the Winnebago County Airport. When EAA sought a new home for its annual fly-in in 1970, Wittman encouraged the organization to come to Oshkosh, where it remains today. The EAA fly-in, known today as EAA AirVenture, has become the world’s largest general aviation event and is still at the Oshkosh airport, which now bears the Wittman Regional Airport name. A State of Wisconsin historical marker now notes the location of Wittman’s hangar on the north side of the airport.
During the April 3-5 events, the Wittman Hangar will showcase several of his designs, from his first “Hardly Ableson” model that used a surplus Harley-Davidson engine, to his racing and pleasure aircraft. During the April 5 evening program, Wittman biographer Aaron King and EAA founder Paul Poberezny will be among those who offer recollections of the famed aviator.
All Wittman 100th anniversary events are included with regular Museum admission. The April 5 evening event is free of charge and open to the public, although a collection will be held to support EAA projects that sustain Wittman’s memory. Reservations are strongly encouraged for the April 5 evening event, and can be made by calling 920-426-6880 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The EAA AirVenture Museum is located just off Highway 41 at the Highway 44 exit in Oshkosh. The Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call the EAA AirVenture Museum at (920) 426-4818 or visit www.airventuremuseum.org.