By ALBERT DYER
It was 48 hours until opening day. Thousands of pilots were amped up as they made their way to the big show: EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018.
However, a low pressure system spinning just east of Oshkosh was generating bands of rain, gusty winds, and low levels of visibility for the VFR traffic converging to their initial arrival points according to the Oshkosh 2018 NOTAM.
Airports within 100 miles of Oshkosh were finding their parking ramps bursting with aircraft of all types seeking shelter and pilots waiting for the announcement that Oshkosh Tower was once again open to receive traffic.
DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport (KDKB) is a popular airport a little more than 100 miles south of Oshkosh. It’s a good place to make that last fuel stop, get a hot dog and a bag of chips, and check the weather.
And so it was for a Corsair that flew in, folding its wings just before coming to a stop on the parking ramp.
After a few minutes securing the cockpit, this big, tall fella with a bit of a southern drawl climbed onto the wing walk. He was greeted by a half dozen or so people who came out to get a closer look at such a rare aircraft.
After instructing the line guy to put in 100 gallons of fuel, he looked at all of us and said if we wanted to climb up and get in the seat to go ahead, giving a quick tutorial on the gymnastics required.
I heard someone say in disbelief, “really?”
“That’s what owning an airplane like this is about — sharing,” he said in an indebted tone.“Share where you can,” he added as he headed for some food and to check weather.
The line quickly lengthened as more and more people came out to the Corsair to spend a few minutes seeing the view from a pilot’s seat.
After about 30 minutes of relaxing, chatting over a few hot dogs and one more weather update, the pilot said the weather had cleared enough for him to make it to Oshkosh, so it was time to leave.
When he got to the Corsair he told everyone it was time for him to go before the weather closed in on Oshkosh again. That announcement created a small panic because two people had not had a chance to climb up and into the seat.
The pilot said to go ahead and he began his preflight inspection. With the preflight completed, I noted him standing there, watching the last person ascend up and into the seat. A quick glance at his watch, but he said nothing.
More time passed as he watched the reactionary smiles and last minute photos being taken. He made no urgent pleas of having to leave. He let everyone take their time and enjoy the moment that he knew all too well.
I was moved by his kindness to strangers. This big, tall fella really was very appreciative to be in a position to share his Corsair.
As pilots know, when we are concerned with closing weather at our destination, delays of any type are not welcome.
As he flew away I wondered if he would be able to make Oshkosh. I, too, was waiting for the gap between weather bands to widen so I could make it to Wittman Regional Airport (KOSH) before the airport closed for the night.
I left about 45 minutes after him. I had to turn back and sit the weather out at Dodge County Airport (KUNU) in Juneau, about 25 miles south of Oshkosh. To my surprise, the mass arrivals of Cessnas and Beechcraft were also there waiting out the weather.
A few days later I saw the Corsair fly during one of the daily airshows. I made my way to Warbird parking and waited for him to land.
I wanted to ask him about Saturday at DeKalb. After his part of the show was over and he had the Corsair secured, I went up to him and asked him if he was able to make it to Oshkosh when he left DeKalb.
“No, I had to divert to Madison until the next band of clear weather passed over Oshkosh,” he reported.
So now I knew. This big, tall southern fella put that small group of aviation enthusiasts above his own desires, giving them a memory that will be cherished a lifetime. It would not surprise me if there is a white Stetson hat sitting in his car when he arrives home.
Oh yeah, who is this pilot? His name is Frank Kimmel of Greenwood, Mississippi. He gave me a memorable experience, and I didn’t even get to sit in his Corsair — yet.