By LARRY STENCEL
With EAA Airventure Oshkosh just days away, pilots all over the country are making their final preparations and looking forward to their annual “fix” of all things aeronautical in that city of 67,000 on Lake Winnebago.
While Oshkosh is the ultimate destination, many pilots and groups use the area’s outlying fields as meeting and staging points. Some choose to stay at those airports rather than fight the AirVenture crowds.
The normally quiet outlying airports and their local pilots welcome them all and step in to provide whatever they need. It is — after all — what Wisconsin is all about.
Experienced pilots and attendees each have their own way of dealing with the myriad of issues and logistics involved in attending this massive event.
Even if they plan to fly all the way into OSH, most have backup plans in case weather, incidents or arrival timing become an issue, causing arrival delays or ATC turnaways.
In some years past, especially the year that incessant rains literally flooded OSH and the event was nicknamed “Sploshkosh,” airplanes were turned away en masse because there was insufficient space to park them. The backup airports quickly filled up and airplanes began to turn up wherever there was a runway, fuel, and help as needed.
One such airport – Wautoma Municipal Airport (Y50) – is conveniently located just 25 air miles northwest from the initial arrival point of the city of Ripon and its infamous railroad track leading to FISK.
Each year, growing numbers of OSH-bound airplanes stop in for easy fuel, a rest, and some conviviality as they complete their journey.
Because Wautoma is a non-towered airport and away from the OSH NOTAM areas, access is a snap. The airport has a 3,300′ paved runway with GPS approaches and a 2,300′ grass runway. A growing number of airplanes fly in and the pilots commute by car to AirVenture.
Wautoma is a small resort town of 2,200 people 35 miles straight west of Oshkosh on Wisconsin Highway 21. The city views its airport as one of its economic engines and, as such, supports it actively.
Improvements in recent years include runway and taxiway paving, the addition of an AWOS, a new fuel pit and new rotating beacon.
The centerpiece of the additions is the new FBO building added about six years ago. It provides a pilot’s lounge, flight prep, meeting and waiting areas, as well as a shower and rest rooms.
During AirVenture, the airport is attended by one of the two co-managers during daylight hours.
Parking and camping is free, donations are welcome.
Those who make advance arrangements can have a rental car waiting for them. The airport has a courtesy car available, but only for short jaunts into town for food or supplies.
In cases where threatening weather is an issue, there is some hangar space available.
Limited maintenance is also available should mechanical issues arise.
In recent years, several aircraft manufacturers have stationed display aircraft for easy demonstration flights.
Some years, EAA uses the airport as a place to take photos of award-winning airplanes.
The city has two motels and several great restaurants are located just a few miles away.
On Sunday morning, July 23, the local EAA Chapter 1331 is holding a fly in pancake breakfast at its hangar on the field.
Whether you stop at Wautoma or one of the other friendly outlying airfields, you won’t be disappointed. Wisconsinites are a friendly people anxious to make your AirVenture stay enjoyable and memorable.