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WhiteKnightTwo in flight

For a week or so every summer, Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisc., becomes the destination for aircraft enthusiasts. That's because it's the venue for the annual convention of the Experimental Aircraft Association. The group's name notwithstanding, the EAA AirVenture show is as much about aviation heritage as it is about cutting-edge machines. This year's event began Monday, and it runs through the weekend.

The odd-looking bird seen here is the Virgin Mothership Eve, the aircraft that will carry Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket aloft for a midair launch of tourists into orbit. Also known as the WhiteKnightTwo, "Eve" has a wingspan of 140 feet. The SpaceShipTwo will be mounted between the twin fuselages.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Shu-Ling Zhou/Oshkosh Northwestern/PSG
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WhiteKnightTwo from below

Powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines and made almost entirely of carbon composites, Eve has a maximum altitude of 50,000 feet. Virgin Galactic says the aircraft could launch four spacecraft every day. The company unveiled Eve one year ago this week.

Updated:Caption:Photo:EAA
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World's Busiest Control Tower

Eve flies by the Wittman airport control tower. The EAA says that the Oshkosh show is hosting more than 10,000 aircraft, along with more than a half-million visitors. For a look at life in the tower during the EAA event, see Wired.com's account, "Inside the World's Busiest Air Traffic Control Tower."

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Aircraft, aircraft everywhere

Aircraft, aircraft everywhere, as far as the eye can see at Wittman airport.

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Aerial view

This view from above shows some of the larger aircraft at the EAA show, including the Airbus A380 jumbo jet, Virgin's Eve, a U.S. Air Force C-130 (center), and an orange Erickson air-crane helicopter (behind the C-130).

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A380 cockpit

In the foreground: the cockpit of the Airbus A380. Through the cockpit windows: the Oshkosh crowd.

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Small planes galore

Where the A380 can carry more than 500 passengers, lots of the aircraft at Oshkosh this week are more of the one- to two-person variety.

Updated:Caption:Photo:NASA/Kathy Barnstorff
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Terrafugia

The Terrafugia Transition falls squarely into the experimental category. While the folks at Terrafugia, including CEO Carl Dietrich (in cockpit), refer to the Transition as a "roadable aircraft," the catchier description would be flying car. The Transition made its maiden flight in March in proof-of-concept form; the first delivery to a customer is expected in 2011.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MCT
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Samson Switchblade

Samson Motorworks is at this week's EAA show to drum up interest in its Switchblade, a three-wheeled "flying motorcycle," seen here in a tabletop model and a larger cutaway construction.
Updated:Caption:Photo:Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MCT
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Switchblade, wings out

According to the preliminary specifications from Samson, the Switchblade will be about 15 feet long and 5 feet wide and tall. The roughly 1,400-pound vehicle will go 90 mph on the ground (at 60 miles per gallon) and 134 mph in the air (22 mpg), on regular unleaded, the company says.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Samson Motorworks
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Switchblade wings closed

For travel on the ground, the vehicle's main wings will fold forward under the fuselage, switchblade-style, and will be "protected from road grunge and rock dings by a clamshell case and a structural keel that takes impacts," Samson says. The Switchblade is designed to seat two people side by side and also to offer "room for golf clubs."

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Erickson S-64F Aircrane

The Erickson S-64F Air-Crane heli-tanker isn't nearly as sleek as the Switchblade or as oddly elegant as Virgin's Eve, but it's a design that's been flying for years. And with a nickname like Elvis, it's always up for an airshow performance...

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Elvis the firefighter

Here, Elvis the heavy-duty, twin-engine heli-tanker shows off its firefighting skills for the Oshkosh crowd.

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C-130 in flight

Not to be outdone, a C-130 from the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command unleashes about 3,000 gallons of water.

Updated:Caption:Photo:U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jeff Schoen
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NASA pavilion

The entry to NASA's pavilion at the EAA AirVenture show features inflatable mockups of the space agency's Orion crew capsule (left) and lunar habitat concept.

Updated:Caption:Photo:NASA/Kathy Barnstorff
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Returning to the moon

Earlier this month, NASA marked the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing. The space agency is still on a barnstorming tour to celebrate the lunar-focused Apollo mission--and to tout its efforts to get back to the moon, and beyond.

Updated:Caption:Photo:NASA/Kathy Barnstorff
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F-16 and Lancaster bomber

The old and the new: A World War II-era Canadian Lancaster bomber looms over a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Updated:Caption:Photo:NASA/Kathy Barnstorff
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Warbirds

A sextet of World War II-era "warbirds" flies in formation above the Oshkosh airport.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Shu-Ling Zhou/Oshkosh Northwestern/PSG
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