Boeing Plaza is the new name of the main static aircraft display at EAA AirVenture, following a sizable financial investment and multi-year commitment the Chicago-based jetliner company is making in the event. The recent launch of its ab initio airline pilot training system is a key reason.

“The commercial airline fleet is going to double during the next 20 years,” says Sherry Carbarry, Boeing VP training and flight services. "The industry is going to need 533,000 new pilots and 584,000 new technicians. We can’t just wait until we deliver the airplanes. We need to start training those 1.1 million aviation professionals right now.”

Carbarry says that Boeing is launching an ab initio pilot training program at the urging of some of its customers, particularly in Asia where experienced new-hire pilots are hard to find. Boeing is partnering with seven international flight schools, including two in Asia and one in South Africa, to provide students with Boeing quality cockpit resource management and safety culture skills. Students at the flight schools will mainly train in relatively low performance piston engine aircraft until they earn their airline transport pilot ratings.

Upon graduation, they will enter Boeing’s new “Jet Bridge” high performance aircraft transition program where they will learn about high altitude aerodynamics, high altitude meteorology and high altitude flight physiology, along with Mach effects, turbofan engines, systems and avionics. After completing the Jet Bridge program, pilots will earn Boeing pilot type ratings at its Miami training center.

EAA chairman Jack Pelton says he had been courting Boeing for quite some time, saying that AirVenture is a world class aviation forum that merits the involvement of top name sponsors. At the same time, Boeing officials were equally anxious to establish a greater presence at a venue that attracts so many young people to professional aviation. EAA insiders say that Boeing Plaza naming rights is costing the firm close to half a million dollars for the first two years, with options to renew in 2016 and beyond.

Carbarry who has been attending Oshkosh AirVenture for four years says “We’re all so passionate about aviation. It’s not as though we’re selling toothpaste. We live this stuff.”

She said that Mark van Tine, CEO of Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen, a long AirVenture participant, has been urging Boeing to take a higher profile role in the event. Parts supplier Aviall, another Boeing subsidiary, is another long time AirVenure participant, as are some of its key suppliers. It’s apparent from Boeing’s move, among other indicators, that AirVenture has grown from its experimental aircraft roots a half century ago into the de facto US national air show today.