Another EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is in the books and the 2019 show was packed with “only at Oshkosh” moments and lots of memories.
Early arrivals were impacted by several days of rain. Severe weather moved through the Oshkosh area on the Saturday before the show officially opened and winds at Appleton International Airport (KATW), just north of Oshkosh, were reportedly around 60 mph. At least five airplanes were damaged at Appleton, including two almost-new Carbon Cubs.
Luckily, my friend and I landed in a Cirrus at Appleton on Sunday afternoon with no problems.
Type club mass arrivals scheduled for Saturday, such as the Bonanza and Baron group, were canceled. Although the weather was fine on Sunday, large areas of grass were still too soft to support parking of aircraft and RVs.
On Sunday evening campers were parked by the side of the road for miles leading into EAA’s Camp Scholler and others took refuge at shopping mall parking lots. Only aircraft with large tundra tires or confirmed reservations for hard surface parking were allowed to land at OSH for much of the day.
Experimental Aircraft Association officials did a great job dealing with the muddy conditions and operations were mostly back to normal when the show officially opened on Monday.
Having attended the fly-in almost every year since 1980, I’ve long ago given up on trying to see everything. Through the years, I’ve learned it’s better to relax and go with the flow.
AirVenture’s online schedule helps with pre-show planning, but sometimes a choice must be made between two interesting forums scheduled at the same time.
This year my “must see” events were several presentations by Burt Rutan, 76, an aviation rock star with 49 aircraft designs to his credit. Burt had not attended AirVenture for four years and EAA management wisely scheduled most of his talks at the Theater in the Woods, which offers much more seating than the forum buildings where he has presented to standing-room-only crowds in the past.
In one of those “only at Oshkosh” experiences, I happened to sit near Mike Melvill at Burt’s first presentation. Mike worked for Burt for many years as a test pilot and manager at the Rutan Aircraft Factory and then Scaled Composites. In 2004 he became the first licensed U. S. commercial astronaut when he piloted SpaceShipOne on its historic flights to the edge space.
Now 80 years old and looking great, Melvill casually mentioned that he had flown to Oshkosh in his 40-year-old LongEZ, the first one built from plans. With extended range fuel, he made the flight non-stop in around nine hours from his home in Southern California.
Birds of a Feather
The Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) and the American Bonanza Society (ABS) are two of the many aircraft type clubs that sponsored banquets during the week. The ABS event attracted a sell-out crowd of almost 400 and COPA had more than 300 people at its event.
Courtesy of YouTube, several backcountry “fat tire” aviators from out west, including “Flying Cowboys” Trent Palmer and Cory Robin, produced “vlogs” — video blogs — documenting their low and slow formation flights of around eight planes to and from Oshkosh. They also participated in the popular twilight AirVenture STOL demonstrations.
The eastbound trip included a “middle of nowhere” dirt road landing by one of the pilots due to a complete engine failure, but these guys land off-airport all the time and it was a non-event.
After a buddy from back home flew a replacement Rotax 912 engine to the remote location and landed on that same road, the plane was soon back in the air. Another incident documented on video was a precautionary landing in a hay field due to a dense fog bank that blocked progress.
Attesting to the growing popularity of drones, the forum I attended at the “drone cage” was standing room only. Many realtors are taking advantage of drones in their marketing efforts, either by piloting their own drone to photograph their properties or by hiring a drone service.
Several of the crews that flew C-47s to Europe to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day presented a forum on their trip. Several participants described the experience as “the trip of a lifetime.”
In addition to all the preparations necessary to safely fly 15 large radial-engine antique aircraft across the Atlantic, the six-week round trip added up to around 100 flight hours for each plane. The fleet consumed a total of 100,500 gallons of avgas and 683 gallons of engine oil. Many of the planes had a mechanic as a crew member and they shared spare parts.
After the June 6th flight over Normandy, some of the D-Day Squadron continued on to reenact the 70th anniversary of the Berlin Air Lift, plus side trips to the Paris Air Show, Venice, and the Alps.
AirVenture 2019 was “The Year of the Fighter” and it was impressive to see 18 Mustangs lined up on a taxiway to do engine runs one afternoon. The air show that day honored World War II triple ace Bud Anderson, 97, who was in attendance.
Current fighters were also there, including the F-22 and F-35, and the Air Force Thunderbirds and Navy Blue Angels both did fly-bys during the week.
New restorations featured during the popular daily Warbirds in Review program were Rod Lewis’ Mosquito and Tom Reilly’s Twin Mustang.
The narrated Warbird Tram Tour is the best way to see everything without walking.
Just Do It
Despite this year’s new attendance record of 642,000, a 6.8% increase over 2018’s record, I’m continually amazed that many aviators have never made it to AirVenture even once. Take my word for it, whether you fly or drive to Oshkosh, the trip is worth the effort.
Hope to see you there in 2020! Next year’s show is slated for July 20-July 26.
Rich Paulsen says
Will fly in next year in my completed Van’s RV12