A great way to experience Wisconsin involves a plate of fresh, deep-fried cheese curds and a cold glass of Spotted Cow farmhouse ale — which is available only within state borders. It’s really good stuff, regardless of what your doctor says. But there’s also another loftier and, in a way, lighter way to get to know America’s Dairyland. It’s open only for a week in late July and leads to the Experimental Aircraft Association’s EAA AirVenture fly-in in Oshkosh, possibly the largest gathering of pilots and aviation fans anywhere in the world.
This July, Oshkosh, as the event is known among pilots, celebrated 50 years in the Wisconsin town and attracted some 700,000 visitors and more than 10,000 planes, helicopters and other aircraft, including some in the strangest shapes. A good number of these flying vehicles relied on engines from GE Aviation, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. We took a stroll around the world’s busiest airfield — another weeklong Oshkosh distinction — to look for GE tech. Here’s what we found, and more.
Above: GE Aviation is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. The GE unit got its start in aviation by developing turbosuperchargers for planes like Doc, a beautifully restored B-29 Superfortress originally built in March 1945. Top image: Every afternoon in Oshkosh belongs to an airshow. Top and above images credit: Tomas Kellner for GE Reports.
The B-17 bomber Yankee Lady, on display in Oshkosh, also relied on GE turbosuperchargers. Image credit: Tomas Kellner for GE Reports.
GE’s expertise in turbosuperchargers allowed the company to develop the first American jet engine in 1942. Since then, its engines have powered many different planes, both civilian and military, like this Northrop T-38 Talon. (The tail of Doc is in the background.) Image credit: Tomas Kellner for GE Reports.
U.S. Marines and their F/A-18 jets rely on GE’s F404 jet engines. Image credit: Rob Butler for GE Reports.
The C-5M Supergalaxy drew a big crowd. This plane uses the new military version of GE’s CF6 engine, called GE F138. Each of the Supergalaxy’s four engines provides 50,000 pounds of thrust and allows the plane to meet new noise-reduction requirements. Although the Galaxy is a military transport plane, it helped launch GE into the commercial aviation business. The jet’s original TF39 engines used a design called a high-bypass turbofan, which placed a big fan up front to generate thrust in combination with a jet. GE quickly saw the commercial potential of the turbofan engine and built a passenger version called the CF6. Image credit: Rob Butler for GE Reports.
Besides Oshkosh and GE, yet another aviation legend was celebrating its anniversary in Oshkosh this year: The iconic Boeing 747 turned 50. GE didn’t produce engines for the first batch of 747s, but its workhorse CF6 engines soon took roost under their wings. Today, many jumbo jets in service are using them, including Air Force One and GE’s own Flying Test Bed. GE Aviation also developed the GEnx-2B engine for the latest generation of the plane, the 747-8, like this brand-new UPS freighter. Image credit: Rob Butler for GE Reports.
GE engines galore. A pair of GEnx-2B engines up front on the wing of a Boeing 747-8, and a GEnx-1B engine in the back on a United Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Image credit: Rob Butler for GE Reports.
While GE developed the world’s largest and most powerful engine, the GE9X, this HF120 engine, developed jointly with Honda for the HondaJet, is the smallest jet engine in its portfolio. Image credit: Rob Butler for GE Reports.
This mean-looking A-10 Warthog jet carries a pair of GE’s TF34 engines. The civilian version of the engine, CF34, powers many regional and commuter jets, including Bombardier and EMBRAER planes. Image credit: Rob Butler for GE Reports.
GE Aviation makes much more than just jet engines. This AH-64 Apache helicopter is using a pair of GE’s T700 engines. In February, the Department of Defense awarded GE a $517 million contract to manufacture its next-generation T901 engines for thousands of Black Hawk and Apache helicopters. Image credit: Getty Images.
GE also brought to Oshkosh the Catalyst, the first turboprop developed from the ground up in 50 years. The engine uses components originally developed for supersonic jet engines, 3D-printed parts and, for the first time, FADEC. “Everything is new on the Catalyst,” says engineer Simone Castellani (above). Image credit: Rob Butler for GE Reports.
The Nextant G90XT, a remodeled King Air aircraft, uses GE electronics and GE H75 engines. “You step into the cockpit and you are looking at six levers to control the typical King Air,” says Nextant’s Randy Znamenak. “With GE’s electronic control, the G90XT integrates a single power lever for each engine that controls and synergizes the throttle and the propeller.” Image credit: Rob Butler for GE Reports.
A GE H85 engine powers this Thrush crop duster. Image credit: Rob Butler for GE Reports.
Many GE Aviation employees are pilots. Ashley Ringer flew herself and her husband, Trevor, to Oshkosh this year. Image credit: Rob Butler for GE Reports.
Oshkosh is an aviation festival and many people camp next to their planes. Image credit: Rob Butler for GE Reports.
Flyovers feature planes old and new. Image credit: Rob Butler for GE Reports.
The aircraft include some in the strangest shapes. These Long-EZ planes were designed by the legendary designer Burt Rutan. Image credit: Rob Butler for GE Reports.
Rutan, in the middle, is a regular at Oshkosh. Image credit: Rob Butler for GE Reports.
More than 10,000 people arrived in their own planes. Image credit: Rob Butler for GE Reports.
Some parked their planes at a “sea base” on the shores of nearby Lake Winnebago. Image credit: Rob Butler for GE Reports.
Oshkosh always puts on a great nighttime air show. Image credit: Rob Butler for GE Reports.
Then you know it’s time to go home. Image credit: Rob Butler for GE Reports.