Love of Flying: AirVenture

 

2017 Boeing Plaza

Each year near the end of July, about 600,000 people make a pilgrimage to AirVenture, sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. For EAA members, their love of all things flying brings them back every year. One local EAA member has been to Oshkosh since 1978, missing only twice due to work and a house move. Like many of the 5000 volunteers, he answers questions from those who fly-in (where are the bathrooms…) and helps tie down their planes. AirVenture is a major tradeshow for aviation vendors, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) usually makes a major announcement. For many, the afternoon airshow with special aircraft, such as Warbirds (mostly World War II), military jets, and great aerobatic flyers such as Sean Tucker is the reason to attend.

Two of our family vacations combined a trip to Oshkosh with the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota. Our 1992 trip went to Oshkosh for 2 days, followed by 3 days of wilderness canoeing. We reprised this vacation in 1994 with 3 days of Oshkosh and 4 days of canoeing. The highlight of Oshkosh ’94 was to see the three Apollo 11 Astronauts discuss the 25th anniversary of their moon adventure. Instead being in the crowd up front, we went behind the platform and saw them up close (<20’) as real people. Within the Oshkosh crowd, there was no apparent security present.

For 1992 and 1994, our family camped in one of the 11,600 sites, which accommodates an estimated 40,000 visitors throughout the week. The main campsite for drive-in visitors is close to US 41, a major 4 lane road with truck traffic all night. With the prevailing westerly wind and the closeness of other campers, it can get noisy. Since I was in a flying club, I vowed to actually fly-in and camp by the airplane the next time.

In 1999, after discussing with various local EAA members their (multiple) experiences of Oshkosh, I took the plunge. A local EAA member agreed to go with me, but he had never been to Oshkosh. I studied the Notice To Airmen (NOTAM) and wrote down the key items. After receiving any updates on the radio, you fly over Ripon (birthplace of the Republican Party) and head northeast following railroad tracks. While keeping a constant altitude and speed, your head is on a swivel looking for other planes, while listening to the traffic controller located at Fisk. He would say “Low wing approaching Fisk, rock your wings.” He would then assign you to one of two runways, and you followed the plane in front with the same (104 mph) speed if possible.

As you got close to the airfield, the local aircraft controller would call you on the downwind leg to “start your turn now and land on the Green Dot,” which allows for better spacing and safety. As soon as you’re at a safe taxi speed, you exit the runway onto the grass as others land right behind you. A sign in your window says “GAC” for General Aviation Camping and you follow various volunteers to your plane camping spot.

After setting up your campsite, one fun thing is to watch the traffic controller talk to the aircraft landing. Most pilots follow directions well, but there are a few who mess up (Blue high wing, you’re too close, make left turn around water tower and re-enter pattern) or don’t land on the designated spot (White, Green, Orange Dot) and “Land on the Numbers” (in the drawing above, 27) painted on the runway. During AirVenture, Oshkosh is the busiest airport in the US, with 17,223 aircraft operations over 10 days, averaging 123 takeoffs/landings per hour. Air Traffic Controllers volunteer to work AirVenture, and most really enjoy it!

Your mind gets overloaded while attending Oshkosh. During an airshow celebrating the end of World War Two, a B-29 flew low down runway to the north, two B-17’s and one B-24 flew above the B-29 to the south, B-25’s flew in from the northeast, P-51 Mustangs from a different direction, etc. all timed to cross over the airport together at different altitudes. After personally flying the EAA B-17 Aluminum Overcast 3 times, I can only imagine the coordination it took and the pilot skill involved.

There are many different Warbirds at the show, and you get to see them both close up in static display, and in actual operation. Original pictures shown below:

A-26 Douglas Invader (WWII, Korea, Vietnam)

F4U Corsair (WWII, Korea)

A-26 Taxi

Corsair Taxi

I’ve flown into Oshkosh two more times. In 2000, I convinced a fellow employee and EAA member to fly-in and camp, and became his right seat observer. In 2007, my wife (Happy Valentine’s Day!) and I flew in and continued our trip through Iowa to visit family. I plan on going to Oshkosh within the next two years with my Korean War era 1947 Warbird:

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  1. J.D. Snapp, All Out of Gum Coolidge
    J.D. Snapp, All Out of Gum
    @JulieSnapp

    Awesome! I didn’t know you were a pilot! I’ll have to check this out at some point. I think @kaladin might like it too.

    • #1
  2. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Lived in Neenah Wi, just north of Oshkosh for 10 years. Was the medical director of the Oshkosh FPD for awhile too. Went to many EAA’s.  Always a great experience.  Oshkosh nearly doubles in size for EAA, and all the hotels, restaurants and bars make their yearly profit on the 2 weeks of the fly in.   I also loved the people from all over the world we would see at the ER during during the event.  For anyone interested in flying it needs to be on your bucket list.

    • #2
  3. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Great essay, thanks for sharing what must be a great experience.

    • #3
  4. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    I would love it!

    • #4
  5. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    This bit of summer is part of our Group Writing Series under February’s theme of “We Need a Little Summer.” March’s schedule and sign-up sheet will be out tomorrow with the new theme. In the meantime, you can browse the other fruits of February. If you’re inspired to tell a summer story of your own or tales of outrageous heat, we can always double up on a date in February.

    • #5
  6. Batjac Inactive
    Batjac
    @Batjac

    My brother was a member of the B-29 Doc crew last year

    • #6
  7. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    Batjac (View Comment):
    My brother was a member of the B-29 Doc crew last year

    The B-29 pictured above is Doc. The B-29 I saw at Oshkosh was Fifi. Both were at AirVenture last year.

    • #7
  8. GLDIII Reagan
    GLDIII
    @GLDIII

    I have been flying into OSH since 2000. It is always an interesting adventure doing the final approach/procedure to the airfield. Depending on your class of aircraft you have some diffent options. The initial years I have flow in the RIPON approach as Vectorman described. Trying to maintain the airspeed requested in a Piper Comanche is difficult since you are close to the stall speed.

    Later years we took advanced of the parameters allowed for the Warbird approach (coming in over Lake Winnebago) fewer delays fewer weekend pickers using it. It was a better experience, but soon too many others figure out that loophole, and then the FAA  rewrote the rules. Twice we filed IFR which was great but hard on us trying to maintain such a strict timeline to get there at our appointment slot.

    The last year I flew was 2015, It was in my newly built experimental airplane (see my avatar) with my son (his first real cross country trip, my first long trip in that plane) doing the RIPON approach, which for that aircraft was easy (it only fly at 115 mph downhill). My boy’s eyes were as wide as saucers at the closeness of all of the other pilots circling the lake near RIPON to get permission to start the congo line approach to the airfield. We had three other planes landing simultanously on the same 9000’ runway since the three color dots were space at 3000’ intervals (most of our planes only need 2000’ to 2500’ feet to touch down and pull over onto the grass along side the runway).

    This was my scope of OSH experience until 2016 when I first took my newly acquired 30 year old travel trailer and discovered a new side to the OSH experience. All prior years I booked a room at the summer time empty student dorm rooms the the University of Wisconsin @ Oshkosh and commuted by bus to the airfield for the daily shows and exhibits. The folks I meet and the experience of staying at the airfield was an entirely diffect experience and now my wife who’s first time to OSH was last year is looking forward to repeating the trip.

    For us pilots OSH, is the penultimate experience, sort of an annual Mecca for the flying community. Lately it has become a driving influence in the direction of the FAA in it’s management of General Aviation segment of the US flying environment.  Something that is hard to describe to the ground people, but wonderful to the flying enthusiasts.

    I hope to see some other Wisconsin Ricochette this year OSH convention. We shall see.

     

    • #8
  9. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    GLDIII (View Comment):
    Trying to maintain the airspeed requested in a Piper Comanche is difficult since you are close to the stall speed.

    Did you notice the blue and white Comanche being directed by the volunteer in the photo above?

    When I flew the slightly slower Piper Dakota (PA-28-236), I also had trouble flying at 90 knots, and needed one notch of flaps.

    • #9
  10. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    This is great, thanks! I am more focused on the commercial side… saw this today:

    aviation | beeforcow

    Yup.

    We Aerosexuals have to stick together.

    • #10
  11. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    OP:

    Your mind gets overloaded while attended Oshkosh.

    Mine certainly would be. I have enough trouble on my annual visit to the air show on the grass runway at the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, NY. WWII warbirds in the air, WWII warbirds taxiing, WWII warbirds starting up those spectacular radial piston engines (I love standing next to one as they crank it up). Plus aerobatics that seem to defy physics.

     

    • #11
  12. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    We had a neighbor who would go to Oshkosh every year – I think he was flying a v-tail Mooney.  He would always bring back tons of photos and gossip.  I remember driving by the event back in 2012 and gawking at all the aircraft on display.

    • #12
  13. Vectorman Inactive
    Vectorman
    @Vectorman

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    I think he was flying a v-tail Mooney.

    The most common V-tail is the Beech Bonanza, designed in 1947, with 4+ passengers. There are some homebuilts (Davis) that also have a V-tail.

    Mooney’s have a traditional tail (rudder and elevators) with the rudder leading edge being straight and the trailing edge on a slant. It makes it easier to wrap the aluminum skin that way.

    • #13
  14. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Vectorman (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    I think he was flying a v-tail Mooney.

    The most common V-tail is the Beech Bonanza, designed in 1947, with 4+ passengers. There are some homebuilts (Davis) that also have a V-tail.

    Mooney’s have a traditional tail (rudder and elevators) with the rudder leading edge being straight and the trailing edge on a slant. It makes it easier to wrap the aluminum skin that way.

    Mooney did make a v-tail too though.  My dad nearly bought one.

    • #14
  15. Painter Jean Member
    Painter Jean
    @PainterJean

    We’ve been going to Oshkosh on and off since about 1986 or so, and steadily since my husband started writing for EAA’s magazine over a dozen years ago. It’s always a great experience. We have a 1946 Ercoupe and my husband talks about flying in (we usually drive) but personally I think I’d be more at ease if we flew in with a flock of other Coupes, as it is so so busy!

    It took us a few years to discover the talks and workshops going on continuously. Those are fantastic — so many subjects.

    Being at Airventure always lifts my spirits. It’s a fantastic display of what makes America great — innovation, boldness, history, and just plain moxie.

    • #15
  16. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    OP:

    Your mind gets overloaded while attended Oshkosh.

    Mine certainly would be. I have enough trouble on my annual visit to the air show on the grass runway at the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, NY. WWII warbirds in the air, WWII warbirds taxiing, WWII warbirds starting up those spectacular radial piston engines (I love standing next to one as they crank it up). Plus aerobatics that seem to defy physics.

    Another must see is the Reno Air Races.  Lots of Warbirds there as well.

    • #16
  17. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    Always wanted to go to a few of these major air shows. Found this video by accident, from the 2017 edition:

    These people are I think, are very similar to the gear head, classic car enthusiast. Get the bug from their fathers, and restore a vehicle that was passed down.

    • #17
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