“You going to Oshkosh this year?”
This question sparks a lot of conversations among pilots, especially in the homebuilt community.
Oshkosh. Airventure. This is “the” event of the year for civilian aviation in the United States. Everybody who is anybody in aviation is likely to be there. But the best part is that you don’t have to be anybody to attend and have an awesome time meeting people with the same interests. Wether you are looking at starting a project on a budget, or talking to the manufacturers about the latest in small jets, or just coming out to see the airshows, you are pretty much guaranteed to find your crowd.
For me, it’s easy. The Van’s RV series of kit airplanes is the most popular on the planet, and the turn out in the hombuilt camping and homebuild parking areas are a direct reflection of this.
This is one of the few events where if one kind of airplane shows up, no matter how rare, it is very likely to have a second one parked near it. And in some cases, a football field or two sized parking area full of them!
The Long-EZ crowd always represents well too.
Or maybe you have a thing for warbirds.
There are actually occasions where something truly unique shows up. For example, the Proteus aircraft designed by Burt Rutan and built by Scaled Composites made an appearance at the show…
The museum on the west side of the airport is a great place, especially if you need someplace dry to hang out for a day. Everything is on display there – from the Wright Flyer to Space Ship One. It is an amazing collection of aircraft, and a few pictures can’t capture the whole experience.
And while you are visiting the museum, walk across the grass airstrip to Pioneer airport. While most of the activity there is child oriented, you don’t want to miss a ride in the Bell 47 helicopter. The wait time can be annoying (an hour or more) – and it is a short ride (5 minutes). But you just cannot comprehend the size of this event without seeing it in detail from the air.
When you get back to the show, be careful where you step. You never know what you have to yield to while walking around.
Ford is a big sponsor of the airshow, and they always have a nice display of cars. This year, the new Ford GT was on display, as well as a bunch of Mustangs. Roush had a display nearby with their souped up versions as well. Even Factory Five Racing had a display of their kit cars. They even had a Ford powered 818 model on display. Other vehicles were around as well – Gators were really popular ATVs there. And the trams were all pulled by John Deere tractors. And just to round things out, Customs and Border Patrol brought out a boat this year.
Even the sky writer has a sense of humor.
Needless to say, money makes the world go around. And the vendors are all there. Every major kit manufacturer, the big names in certified aircraft, and many, many parts suppliers are all there to put products in your hands. I actually had a goal in mind to shop for ADS-B equipment, and I was certainly not disappointed. I ended up playing with the L3 Lynx system in the L3 display booth for a while and really liked it. I think it may be worth the hassle of swapping the GTX-327 for the Lynx, in spite of the hefty price tag. Heh, I expect I will post another maintenance page on that in the next year or so with lots of swear words and pictures of the rats nest under my instrument panel.
There are many other vendors too – even non-aviation ones. I bought a couple of nice new leather belts for only $4/each. And I was tempted by a really nice offset patio umbrella, but it was too much money. And if you wanted to bring Fluffy or Fido along in the airplane, there was a vendor for you too.
This is the fourth time so far that I have made the epic journey to the mid-west to visit the airplane lovers Mecca. It is a hard ride to fly for 10+ hours straight, and a lot of things can go wrong – especially weather. I left early Saturday morning from the Phoenix area and didn’t hit much in the way of weather, but this being the middle of summer means it is always a factor. The central Wisconsin area was getting a lot of rain, so I was hoping I could get in on Sunday morning. I decided to stay overnight in Iowa City at the Alexis Park Inn.
My route in was P19 -> E98 -> DHT -> EMP -> IOW
I try to break up the legs into reasonable chunks so that I land with plenty of fuel margin, and not beyond the limits of biology. The last leg from IOW to OSH is pretty easy, and that morning there was a low cloud layer. I was a little concerned, but after checking to make sure Osh was VFR I made the last hop on Sunday.
I headed back a week later, again on Saturday. As soon as the ATIS indicated the airport was open, I taxied out and took off. This time, the route was OSH -> VTI -> EMP -> DHT, at which point I had to stop and think for a bit.
The weather had been getting a lot worse through Kansas, and the radar maps for New Mexico looked pretty bad. Worst of all was the last 100 miles or so back into Phoenix. I decided to stay overnight in Dalhart, TX and try again on Sunday.
That turned out to be a good move. After some rain Sunday morning, the skies were pretty much wide open the whole way home. A quick turn at E98 and I was home.
Total flight hours for the round trip: 25.1