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Waupaca Airport busy during air show

The Waupaca Municipal Airport was busy during the EAA AirVenture week in Oshkosh. The airport set a record in fuel sales and a wide variety of aircraft landed such as this Beechcraft Bonanza from Tulsa, OK. James Card Photo

Sets fuel-sale record

By James Card

Air traffic peaked at the Waupaca Municipal Airport last week during the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) AirVenture in Oshkosh, the largest fly-in air show in the world.

The Waupaca airport has become the equivalent of a park-and-ride for aviators. Like commuters that park outside of a congested city and take a shuttle or bus downtown, pilots looking to dodge the busy airspace around Oshkosh fly into Waupaca and take a shuttle service to the show.

As of Friday, July 28, 139 aircraft and more than 500 people passed through during the week. As the show ends, more airplanes will pass through on their way home.

“The people that are parked here stay in town. We had the ramp [parking lot for airplanes] full. All the hotels were full and all that is directly from EAA. We have people that have been coming here for 20 years. They like the hustle and bustle but when they are done, they can come back to Waupaca. We encourage them to visit the Chain or go downtown,” said Matt Klatt, airport manager.

During the week, six jets stopped overnight and a dozen other jets passed through. Klatt estimates at one time there was around $25-30 million dollars worth of jets on the ramp.

Two Cirrus Vision jets (made in Duluth) stopped in. Two Vietnam-era L-19 Bird Dogs flew in. The plane of the president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association landed in Waupaca. It is a Caravan float plane where the wheels retract into the pontoons. Aviators from England and Austria flew in and many Canadian pilots arrived this year.

Klatt and his wife and co-manager, Brittany, put out complimentary lunches for visiting pilots: hot dogs and hamburgers one day, pulled pork another.

It was the best month in airport history for selling aviation gas. Klatt set a goal to sell 5,000 gallons.

“We soared passed it to the point we were at risk of running out so I had to place an emergency order for fuel. This week has the most local economic impact for the airport,” said Klatt.

“When Oshkosh has an unfortunate accident or it is overly congested, they will stop allowing people to land. As people get low on fuel, it’s kind of a scramble. So they will come here or they will come here to wait out the weather,” said Klatt.

Movies, camping

On June 23, the airport hosted a drive-in movie night featuring “Top Gun: Maverick.” Partnered with Waupaca Parks and Recreation, the event was a success other than a small rain delay. This year 125 cars arrived for the film and Klatt estimates there were no less than three people to a vehicle.

Many regional airports offer camping to traveling aviators. Klatt is building campsites on the far end of the runway near the Waupaca River. It is far enough from the noise of U.S. Highway 10 to offer a rustic camping experience. Klatt and some volunteers have mowed and cleared brush to form the campsites.

“Over there it feels like you’re camping, instead of being at an airport with a tent,” said Klatt.

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