Two very, very long weeks from now I’ll be arriving to take part in EAA AirVenture 2013 – better known simply as “Oshkosh”. The world’s biggest aviation celebration and the greatest week of the year.
This will be my third Oshkosh and my second where I drive instead of fly. All the arrangements have been made – hotels. fast ferry pass and all the tickets needed to get through the week. The cameras have been cleaned and polished with a few accessories to be delivered next week. I’ve cleared about 100gb on the hard drive to load the thousands of pictures that will come. The Jeep goes in for an oil change and some scheduled maintenance next week to make sure she’s ready for some long drives. Everyone and I mean EVERYONE at work knows that Oshkosh is coming and I will effectively disappear from the face of the earth for 11 days as far as they are concerned. I missed one Oshkosh because of business pressures and it will not happen again.
My friends can be broken down into 2 categories. Those who understand my passion for aviation and those who think I am nuts. The latter ask why I continually go on and on about Oshkosh and why I get that crazy look as the end of July draws nearer. The friends who understand what this means are happy for me. Well some are jealous but still happy. My wife, bless her heart, is somewhere in the middle but she let’s me do this and supports me all the way which is why, along with about 10,000 more reasons, that I love her. She’s prepared to wave goodbye not knowing if I will call her every day (I DO try) and if she’ll be able to understand me over the roar of a jet or radial engine.
For those who don’t quite understand what Oshkosh is about, let me try and convey some of the wonder that is Oshkosh.
Oshkosh takes place at Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH) in Oshkosh Wisconsin. For a week every year, KOSH becomes the busiest airport on the planet. Up to 10,000 aircraft come and go over the course of the event and listening to the ATC feed gives you only a hint of how busy they are. The term “Rock Your Wings” is synonymous with arrival at Oshkosh and getting a “Good rock” response from a controller is a badge of honor for any general aviation pilot who braves the traffic. People camp in their airplanes, under their airplanes and near their airplanes. Communities of like aircraft arrive and depart together and gather in groups. Last year, over 100 Piper Cubs arrived to celebrate an important anniversary and there was a sea of yellow wings in the Vintage area.
Oshkosh celebrates aviation in 3 major areas – Warbirds, Vintage and Homebuilt. Each group has their own prime real estate for aficionados to meet, gather and celebrate their particular passion. I’m more of a generalist and I’ve gotten smart enough to plan my week to spend a day or more in each area. In the era of sequestration, the normal military presence will be noticeably absent but the crowds won’t really miss them (at least they won’t acknowledge that they miss them). Oshkosh veterans can be a little snobbish and will tell you at great length why AirVenture shouldn’t have any modern military or commercial participation. I’m such a rookie I can say that I will miss not seeing the might of the USAF, Navy and Marines in the air and on the ground.
Two years ago Boeing sent the 787 Dreamliner to Oshkosh to show it off. Though the news is filled with reports of problems with the ‘87, in 2012 its future looked very bright and the arrival at KOSH was one of the highlights of the week. Last year, the Orbis flying eye hospital made an impressive entrance to the event and stayed for tours. Oshkosh is known as a showplace for the newest, the oldest, the fastest, the most unusual and simply the most aircraft in one place at the same time. Upwards of 1/2 million people visit Oshkosh during AirVenture.
There will be 8 major airshows during the week – 6 during the day and 2 at night. There will be movie premieres (Disney’s Planes), live music (Chicago, Gary Sinise, Tony Orlando). There will be astronauts (Canada’s own Chris Hadfield), there will be veterans’ flights and there will be a thousand other things to do. My schedule goes from 7 in the morning to approximately 9 in the evening. I will probably walk close to 100 miles over the course of the week. I fly in a vintage B-17 bomber on Thursday. A bunch of us are meeting up at “Camp Bacon” for an evening meal and I’m bringing the maple syrup. I’m even up for an award in the Social Media world.