Video: Southwest Airlines’ departure from the Oskhosh AirVenture

Though aviation enthusiasts are the focus of each annual Oshkosh AirVenture, there’s also a big commercial and and industrial component. This year, for example, Ford, GE and Honda each had a significant presence on the grounds, largely for what seems to be exposure.

As part of the festivities, Southwest also brought one of their Boeing 737s to display at the show, and they chocked the airplane full of volunteers, employees and media for a special shuttle flight from Chicago‘s Midway into the heart of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. And since Gadling Labs is based out of Chicago, we hitched along for the ride.

Departure from Midway was at an eye-rubbing 7AM, and once on the ground in Oshkosh we had full range to wander wherever and photograph whatever we wanted. And just as the clouds rolled in at 5PM, we gathered back together to make the journey home.

First officer JC was standing on the airstairs as we watched the clouds roll in, and somehow we got onto the topic of cockpit jumpseat availability. Asked if we could take an open slot, he shrugged in affirmation — since this wasn’t a commercially operated Southwest flight the rules on passengers in the cockpit weren’t as strict, so after checking with the captain of the flight we came up front.

Above, you’ll see the perspective of the Southwest crew during the taxi and takeoff from Oshkosh AirVenture. With spectators lining the parallel taxi way and a festive atmosphere all about it was truly a unique experience — we hope you enjoy the perspective.

Photos from the Oshkosh Airventure

Festivities from the 2011 Oshkosh AirVenture are just wrapping up as we type, and as our photos come back from the dark room we’re sending them straight out to print.

As far as air shows go, one can do no better than the Oshkosh AirVenture in Wisconsin. Your typical small town air show this is not. Sure, they’ve got the warbirds and the experimental planes and the helicopters and the commercial jets — in sheer volume of hardware here there is no doubt.

Oshkosh goes well beyond the lifeless shell of steel and rivets though — this show is more about community than anything else. It’s immediately apparent as you walk down the runway where the primary show takes place. On the left side you’ll see cycles of aircraft flying in formation, in loops, around in spirals and performing for the audience.

And on the right? Legions of personal aircraft surrounded by campsites. Thousands of them. Some visitors sleep in their aircraft, others right under the wings. Scores of people make the trip up to Oskhosh each year to nestle back into the community, talk shop and catch up with old friends. It’s the annual reunion of airplane nerds.

Add to that mix a strong commercial component of airframe, technology and culture displays and you’ve got the biggest aircraft event in North America, a virtual playground for any aviation enthusiast. Take a look at the pictures from Gadling labs courtesy Erin Drewitz below.