Changes at EAA AirVenture - WFXS, MyFoxWausau - News and Weather for Wausau, WI

Changes at EAA AirVenture

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OSHKOSH (WAOW) -

The first day of the biggest aviation celebration in the world kicked off Monday. More than 10,000 pilots descended upon Oshkosh for the week long EAA AirVenture.

The event features everything from exhibits, to air shows, to seminars. Organizers say more than 600,000 people will attend the event before the week is over. Pilots say it's a time they look forward to all year.

"I've got my pilot's license, this is, there's no other event like this on earth. This is truly unique," said Jim Hausch of Juneau.

The show starts up again at 7 a.m. Tuesday. AirVenture makes the airport in Oshkosh the busiest in the world for the week.

This year's show comes just months after billions of dollars in federal budget cuts. Some of them directly impacting AirVenture. For the first time, the FAA is slapping the EAA with more than $400,000 in fees.

Those fees pay for the air traffic controllers at AirVenture, but EAA officials say those workers are paid for with fuel tax.

"We think those are unjustified and unauthorized and we're working with congress and working in the courts to have a judgment on that, to have a decision and have a petition for that. But yet, the air traffic controllers are here. They're eager to be here, they do a great job," said EAA Spokesman Dick Knapinski.

The EAA paid those fees, but has since filed a lawsuit for a refund. Pilots say they hope the issue gets resolved soon.

"I'd like to see EAA made whole again for having to pay that, that cost, but we'll see how it shakes out," said Hausch.

Newsline 9 tried to reach out to the FAA for comment. Officials told us they wouldn't be talking, as long as the lawsuit was on-going.

A popular attraction at AirVenture is the WWII planes, but one thing missing this year because of the sequester is the modern style military planes. People say those are missed.

"I really like looking at them and getting up close to a plane that you probably never would before," said Jennifer Hausch of Juneau.

Thunderbird pilot Major Caroline Jensen says she hopes to get her planes' wheels off the ground at AirVenture again soon.

"A lot of us are working on our education, professional development so there's been good things that came out of it but I'm hoping next year we get to fly and we get to come back and grace the skies of Wisconsin," said Jensen.

While those planes aren't gracing the skis, visitors say they're grateful there's still plenty more to do at EAA AirVenture.

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