Each year at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, a group of families from the Make-A-Wish foundation get to attend the fly-in for a full, Only-in-Oshkosh experience.
This year EAA hosted five families on Saturday, July 29, for a schedule that included Ford Tri-Motor, ultralight, and Blackhawk helicopter flight experiences, a control tower tour, and lunch with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.
Tony Wihlm, who coordinates EAA’s partnership with Make-A-Wish, said the day was filled with, “A lot of smiles.”
One Make-A-Wish family, though, was able to experience all that and more.
When Bryan Grandstaff, 17, first signed up with the Make-A-Wish program, his one wish was to come to Oshkosh and attend a hands-on forum.
“My neighbor used to take me around — all the time — to airports and air shows, and I was interested a little bit at that time,” Bryan said. “Then, a few years later I saw a TV show about rednecks shooting rockets off in their backyard and I said, ‘Hey, I want to do that.’ So now I’m interested, and now I want to do aerospace engineering and go to school, start my own company maybe.”
When EAA heard Bryan’s story, it set out to put together an unforgettable week for him and his parents. Throughout AirVenture, Bryan had the chance to ride in a Bell 47 helicopter, EAA’s B-17, and fly along with the AeroShell Aerobatic Team.
And for his forum, Bryan got up close and personal with the Scaled Composites team at Forum Stage 7, where he met one of Scaled’s top engineers-turned-test pilot, Zach Reeder, and got a chance to sit in and learn about the Catbird and Proteus aircraft.
However, for Bryan, EAA 1253470, it wasn’t all the neat experiences that made the week memorable. What he said was his favorite part of the week sounded similar to EAA founder Paul Poberezny’s saying that one comes for the airplanes and stays for the people.
“Everyone here is so nice, it’s unbelievable,” Bryan said. “They’ll reach out to you. You sit down with someone for two minutes, and they’ll tell you how they got into aviation, their life story, and everything, and that’s what I love about it.”