Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lions and Tigers, Constellations, Taildraggers, and a Cuban Panini


The plan was to get up early and take the 4 legged kid out for a walk, have breakfast at a leisurely pace, meet the day, and go flying; that was the plan.

We woke up just after 7:30 am, which is late for us. It's nice actually, to wake up early on the weekend and watch the sun come up, hear the birds hollering cuss words at one another, and have a fresh pot of coffee waiting on you in the kitchen.  This morning, the coffee was old, the birds had turned to flipping themselves at each other, and the sun had been up for hours.  We'd stayed up late last night unpacking boxes and hanging pictures and were paying for it this morning.  We've only been in the new house for a few weeks and we're still finding boxes unopened, and holes unpatched (uhm, I'd moved us in instead of calling the movers).  Everytime we went flying, we'd overfly the construction site and watch our house being built, slowly but surely.  We'd met with the builders 1432 times to pick out this color and that, this type of stone versus that, this color cutting board (I ain't kidding), and not that, etc.... I'd never experienced having a home built and it's stressful. I'd rather have sat with my North East Flyer buds out at Wings drinking beer!

Anyway, I digress.....

So we got up later than we had planned and were now wind sprinting to get caught up.  You know if you're ever late in the morning, it takes forever to catch up.  I'm still not caught up and it's been 4 days! Alright, I'm getting to the good part.
We're at the airport now and the Viking Witch is rarin' to go. She's purty and as I take her top off (her cover fella's, C'mon!), she glistens in the morning sun. She's got a full belly of fuel and turns over without hesitation. We're supposed to be meeting the gang up at 4N1, Greenwood Lake Airport at 10:00 am for an early lunch, war stories, a few white lies, and a fun day.  We taxi out and are airborne by 9:30 am, which is going to put us about 15 minutes behind schedule. Not too bad, considering that we'd slept in huh.

The morning flight is beautiful and smooth. A scattered layer floats a little above us, and we elect to remain below it for a nice clean view of Mother's Nature morning gift to us. 

Crossing over the Delaware River just north of Trenton New Jersey (View, behind left wing)

We hadn't been in New Jersey for more than a few minutes and a spec on the horizon continued to grow.  I'd checked for TFRs, NOTAMs, and Rednecks shootin' shotgun events (I can say that cause I'm one too! and they're  my cousins don't you know), but nothing had been scheduled via official scheduling methods.  Before too long, we figured out what it was and I gave it a call on 123.45. No response so we elected to give him a wide birth in case 1. He was working in a TFR area, 2. I was entering a TFR area, and 3. someone was seeing me enter a TFR area.  Luckily, none of the 3 possibilities came true and I'm answering my phone again. 

We couldn't tell for sure what exactly it was, but there was definitely some sporting event going on below his location.  This wasn't the Goodyear Blimp that we'd seen earlier in the month at Oshkosh so I'm guessing it was a youngen blimp working the local area.  It was purty though.
On we flew and about 40 minutes after getting airborne, Greenwood Lake Airport came into view.

It's a very pretty view.  There are tons of woods in the entire area and had we not had a good idea of what we were looking for, we could have easily missed it all together and ended up somewhere in Newfoundland (is that one word or 3). 

After landing, we taxied off of the runway and were happy that we'd arrived in time to see a Constellation being refueled on the ramp.  That certainly is a short runway for a Constellation to be operating on, but landed here they did.  I'm definitely gonna watch her get airborne again. I got a camera, two new batteries, a full bottle of water and I'm ready!

That pilot certainly did park the Constellation close to the FBO and Blue Sky Restaurant.

I bet they'll have to use a tow to back it up in order to give room to let him taxi again. I tell you what, some peoples kids - flying planes in here and parking them so close to the building. Don't they have any manners or awareness of the no open flames within 30 feet of the building rule.  hmm!  Buncha Hillbillies!
Oh, wait.  I think maybe there was a mishap here.  That pilot must have impacted the side of the building pretty hard cause the plane has now embedded itself into the wall.  Hope nobody was in the bathroom!

Well, you know I had to ask what the deal was with this obvious violation of building code(s). Here are both stories that I received:

Story one: During both WWII and the Korean War, Champagne Lady provided transportation to literally thousands of American Fighting Men to and from the United States.  She had performed flawlessly and became hero to thousands of those troops headed home.  The Champagne Lady, along with her many sisters, suffered many a battle wound continued to answer the call of duty.  One fine day back in the 60's, the Champagne Lady had departed from somewhere in the Northeast and just about the time she was crossing over Greenwood Lake, her engines started backfiring and she needed to land immediately.  Fuel contamination was later ruled as the culprit as all engines were affected.  The young crew saw Greenwood Lake airport below and although the runway was extremely short, the attempt would have to be made as all around their current location lay woods and water.  The pilot aligned himself with the runway, lowered full flaps, and planted the Champagne Lady firmly on the numbers and skidded to a halt just short of the departure end of the runway.  She had landed, but there was no way she'd be able to get airborne again from such a short runway.  She sat on the tarmac for years and finally put up for sale.  The remainder of this version actually rolls into an off-shoot of story two.  Frank Lembo did buy her, although she was already on the field and not prepped to fly in after the purchase was made. 

Story two: In 1976, Frank Lembo Enterprises (owners of Greenwood Lake Airport) bought her to use as a restaurant and lounge. The plane was prepped and made her final flight landing on the short 2700 foot runway.  Although the owner (at the time) passed away in 1979, the upgrades to her interior was completed sometime around 1981. A stairway and large doors had been cut into the fuselage up near the front and also the rear.  The restaurant sadly only lasted about 11 months due to lack of customers. What a shame.  For the next 15 years, she just sat there.  Finally, someone said "Hey, what if we turn her into a pilot shop?  That lasted a short time too and once again, the plane was closed up and treated as a storage shed. In 2000, the State of New Jersey purchased the airport, along with the plane.  In 2005, the plane became an office and changes were again made inside, and a large deck added to the front left side of the fuselage. A new chain-link fence surrounding the plane was also added and the last event that I was able to find was in 2006, when a new asphalt tarmac was laid all around the Connie’s resting place. 

Story one sounds more adventurous but I'm probably going to have to believe number 2. By the way, her name is Champagne Lady.
Okie doke, so we taxied to park and secured the airplane - I'm sure of it and that's my story and I'm sticking to it. 

Perhaps I forgot to mention it, but the primary reason for today's flight was to meet up with a bunch of folks from the NorthEast area for the monthly lunch fly-in.  The chosen spot for this month's lunch was 4N1, or in English, Greenwood Lake.   Here we were, and only 20 minutes late.  We'd made good time by flying direct from Wings. We departed runway 6, transitioned through the Willow Grove (NXX) Delta, buzzed the blimp, edged by the NY Bravo and arrived in 41 minutes.  The Viking Witch had her running britches on.

After having received the brief on the "Connie" (Constellation) by the FBO lady that was standing outside, we walked inside to the restaurant - which is where we were supposed to all meet up.  There were several tables full and after having walked around and introduced ourselves to half the folks inside, I realized that, not only were they not the NorthEast Flyer Folks, but they didn't really care much who we were.  They were all polite though and didn't  even slap my teeth loose when I shook hands with them.  They probably thought I was a politician or something looking for votes and just smiled politely back and said, "Oh, that's nice".   Feeling a bit odd at having proven myself as the "Rain Man", we sat up at the bar and ordered coffee while watching the chef and chefette work skillfully and efficiently as orders were being fulfilled and new orders received.  We had sporadic conversations with them between cooking and cleaning and I spoke loudly enough as to what we were doing there to give the other folks we'd just met, a clue of why we thought they were who we thought they were, when they weren't at all.
We continued sitting there giving "just a few more minutes" time for the others to arrive from there distant departure airports.  I walked out to the FBO counter and that's when I noticed the wet twins.  Oh yes I did!  Greenwood Lake Airport is having a time building special (at the time of this writing), that goes something like this:

If you are multi-engine certified and want to build time for advancement in aviation, you can sign up for this special deal.  When you sign up, you are paired with another multi-engine rated pilot and the two of you schedule time to go fly a bunch of hours together.  You can always sign-up with a buddy so the two of you fly together and avoid getting stuck with a hillbilly like me or something.  After signing up and before getting the keys, you will have to do a checkout with one of the local CFI's.  The cost: $89.95 WET! Again, this is the price that I was given on that day, August 23, 2008 but I don't know how long this deal is good for.  So there you go.  Wet Twins for under a hunert bucks! Here's a photo of the type, but not the exact one!  Please give the FBO there a call (4N1) for further info and clarification.

Pretty good deal it sounds like to me. 

So we continued to wait for others to arrive for a bit and decided that we couldn't take it any longer.  Wheel barrels full of eggs and bacon and yard birds and hams and salads and zucchini's and squashes and corn and pie's and French baguettes went by; each one making me hungrier and hungrier.  I'd gone from giving Beth a gentle kiss on the cheek to biting her fingernails for a little snack before lunch.  I'd already eaten mine, plus my toe-nails too. We got up from the bar nearly starved half to death and sat in a booth next to the window and opened the menu.  This was an international cuisine serving cafe cause there were all sorts of stuff. French Fries, German Sausage, Cuban Panini's, and Greek Salads to name just a few.  The owner walked over and started chatting with us and we learned that she had previously owned and operated a French Restaurant closer to the city, as in New york,  in which all the big wigs frequented. She reckoned it was time for a change and she purchased the cafe at Greenwood Lake and had been operating there for a little while now.  She'd made mention of the fact that here at the cafe and local area, folks weren't too busy to smile and say hello, or stop and ask how you've been and ask if there was something she needed help with.  That was nice to hear and it strengthens the fact that there are so many wonderful folks all over the place.  It's a shame that the attention goes to the few bad ones and make us cautious of when, where, and how we go and do the things we love doing. 

Growing up in South LA (Lower Alabama), the good folks there did the same; hello's and a smile was a recurring event everywhere you went.  They'd spank you too; at least they did me. No, not the lady at the cafe', the folks down south.  Me and my buddy's would get in trouble for something we had nothing to do with and each adult that had heard of what happened that we passed on the way home would spank all of us it seemed.  I got a lot of whoopin's.

Back to the cafe'.  Back when we were sitting at the bar watching them create breakfast feasts, I'd already decided what I was going to order.  It was this large bread roll about the size of a watermelon that was packed with scrambled eggs, home-fried potatoes,  and bacon. I think it weighed about 11 pounds and looked delicious!  That's what I was ordering. Well, now that I've opened the menu I can't decide.  I'm spoiled for choice cause there is a lot of good stuff in here.  After an honest 15 minute eeny meeny minee moe, I end up selecting the Cuban Panini and Beth has made 4 trips back to the specials of the day board and compared it to the multitude of items on the standard menu.  She chose a salad that would make that fella on TV yell BAM.  It looked at tasted perfect!  On top of that,  when's the last time you had Tirusamu from a small airport. This wasn't bought down at the Pigley Wigley either, its the real deal.  Hmm Hmm Hmmm.    We took our time eating and 30 minutes later we were members of the clean plate club and it was time to go looking around.  We paid the bill and headed down the road on foot.
We didn't know it before getting to Greenwood Lake Airport, but earlier at the bar, we were told stories of wild jungle animals running around these wooded hills and the fact that rumors indicated that they were still there.  Here's what we learned from the locals and then some later when we looked up on the internet thing.

- Back in the summer of 1972, Warner Brothers figured it was time to let out crazy wild animals into the public to get some ideas for future movies. Ok, I made that part up.  So, if you were to take out my unverified white-lies the last sentence should now read:  In 1972 Warner Brothers. Makes for a pretty boring sentence huh.  I'll continue.  Back in the summer of 1972, Warner Brothers created a theme park that housed 1500 live animals available to view by either driving through the park or walking through a special protected area. It was generally suggested not to walk through the drive through only section after a few people tried it and animals learned that we humans taste like chicken.  This park called Jungle Habitat would only last for 4 years before all the animals escaped. Ok, I made that part up too.  The park only last for four years because after repeated attempts to get approval to increase the size of the park were denied, Warner Brothers elected to close the park.  During that four year period, they had received over 500,000 paid guests. 

In the drive through area, the animals were permitted to roam freely and interact with one another.  Some animals, like pot-bellied pigs were kept away from the lions as this was considered poor sportsmanship and the park guests frowned upon watching piglet tar tar served before their eyes.  Other animals though, like Gorilla's and Peacocks and Camels and Giraffes walked around doing their own things.  There were even Siberian Tigers in the park that roamed in their own area.  Occasionally, some dipstick would roll down there windows and be surprised when one of these large animals crawled right into their car and began having lunch.  There was even one hillbilly that stopped his car, got out and went to the trunk to retrieve a fresh cold sixpack and got half his butt chewed off.  I guess they probably call him half-a-butt George if George is his name.

In the walking area, guests always looked forward to riding Elephants and Camels and meeting Bugs Bunny.  In addition, Dolphin Shows were a daily event scheduled between train trips on the parks own little train that could.  Snack Bars and Trinket Shops were also scattered about the grounds.  Although there weren't any amusements park rides to fully qualify this place as a theme park, the plans were there, and they were just waiting on the approval to increase the park size. Approval would never come.
Several animals were reported to have escaped, several people were bitten by animals, and the media continued to strengthen the negative publicity towards the park.  Hey, it wasn't Warner Brothers fault that two lions decided to work together to stalk, capture, and attempt to eat the large yellow elephant that turned out to be a taxi-cab full of people.  Boy were they surprised.  A baby elephant had bitten a woman too, but probably only because it heard other animals saying that we tasted like chicken and, as kids do, had to try it for themselves.  

Even though the park had high attendance, returning visitors were few and far between because Warner Brothers still had not received approval to expand its footprint and add new attractions.  It was, however, advertising that the expansion would begin in the summer of 1977 and announced this as part of it's big Halloween event of 1976. It turns out that the Halloween Event would be it's last day of operation.   On October 31 of 1976 Jungle Habitat closed its doors for good.  The town had narrowly disapproved its request to expand and Warner Brothers elected to sell the animals and property.  The media quickly increased its negative publicity stating that many animals were being released into the wild and many others escaping.  The buildings were left standing and many youngens were getting in trouble for creating their own parties and events on the vacated grounds.  Many of these stories ended up in a magazine called Weird NJ.  Twelve years later the 800 acres and 26 miles of paved road was purchased by the state of New Jersey and it later became a mountain biking and walking area. I've also just been told by a fella on a local forum that I visit, is that the airport was renamed Nairobi during the years the Jungle Habitat was in operation. After they closed it, it was changed back to Greenwood Lake which is the name of the lake next to the airport.

I borrowed this picture off the airport site. If you look close with a telescope, you can see Nairobi on the tail.

From the words of a former employee of the park, "Each day all the elephants and rhinoceros' were taken by us from their enormous steel barns . They were never tamed . We then herded them through the woods to another outdoor compound about one half mile away. At dusk each day we would then herd them all back into their barns for the night. This was the mission each day. Guide them safely . Plus bathe them and shovel out their barns. Feeding them all along the way including other health cares. You would also possibly fall in love with them once you get past the odors. All of this going on while maintaining our firm position and motto which was " Not to ever be trampled or squashed.""

That was enough to get our attention and I grabbed Beth by her fingernailess purty little hands and down the hill we went. 

As we approached the entrance, things didn't necessary appear in real life as they did in my minds' eye.  Don't get me wrong, we may have been even more intrigued by what we saw after having just heard a few rumors about this place on the walk down the hill. It was exciting and even a little scary to think about what really could be behind the broken fence and around the corner.  We entered the park, nail-less, and with two fresh camera batteries.

As we walked along the road deeper into the "jungle", we talked about how things must have been 30 something years ago.  Wild animals runnin' around chasing after other four, and an occasional two, legged beast.  A real jungle it did sound like.  We could just imagine the constant fight for survival and the steps that each creature had to take to ensure it lived another day.  That's when Beth noticed the mountain bike in tree! 

I hope whatever rode it into the park was able to walk out of the park.
We continued deeper in to the jungle and discovered it really is a very lovely place to walk.  There were trails still in tact and every now and again we'd come up on a structured set of stones that had been overgrown with vegetation. We weren't able to make out what it used to be but it was definitely man made structures that had lost in the battle against time. 

The trail, and sometimes road, continued to wind around the hills and we noticed a cliff area over to our right so we went to have a look.  It was gorgeous. Beth wasn't too excited about standing close to the edge, so she kept an eyeball out for leopards whilst I walked over and took a couple of photos:


Beth says that these rocks form a face that looks like ME looking to the right.  I can see a face but to me it looks like a monkey.   Wait A Minute! BETH!

This was a really pretty view. Much prettier than my novice photography skills gives it credit for.  As I stood there taking pictures (I love digital camera's), I noticed that we could see the Viking Witch parked amongst the other aircraft.

Something didn't look quite right and I still couldn't tell even after I zoomed in and took the picture:

There is the Viking Witch with her nose pointed to the right at the far end of the line. She's the Cherokee, not the Cessna.  I am sort of positive, kinda sorta, positive, that I put chocks down in front of her nose wheel, I think.  I couldn't tell it when I was looking into the 2 inch window of the camera, but somehow she had escaped the restraint of the chock and decided to go and sit in the grass. LOOK AT HER!  The little wench thought it would be cute to go and stand in the grass despite me having tied her to the ground on the pavement.  I'll whoop her butt when I get back down there.  "Honey, I used chocks, didn't I?".  Beth didn't reply.

Well I couldn't get to her now. It would be a two mile walk to get back to her and I ain't about to jump off this cliff just to go and give her a seein' to.  I'll do it later just as long as she doesn't sneak out of the airport boundary or something before I get there.

We continued our walk and enjoyed the sun and sounds and chatted about the possible mysteries that this jungle kept hidden.  It would have been fun to have driven through it but somehow reliving it with our own twists and turns made it sound even more adventurous than perhaps it was in real life.  New Jersey Jones and the Temple of Jungle Habitat!  After another few hundred yards, we came upon a huge parking area that must have been able to accommodate a couple of thousand cars.  Those cars that had been half eaten probably had their own special lot. In fact, I had read afterwards that two of the largest businesses that grew due to the jungle habitat that weren't associated with Warner Brothers were a car towing business and a pet babysitting service. The car towing business went from 1 tow truck to 7 within weeks to accommodate the nearly 300 calls per day of overheated, broken down, or partially eaten cars.  I wouldn't have wanted to be the unlucky new guy having to step out of my tow truck to hook up a car.  I'd have pushed the doggone thing down the road first!  The pet babysitting business took off quickly, after FiFi and other small pets became S'mores for the larger tenants of the park.  "Here Fifi, Here FiFi......Fifi?  SLAP, sorry Honey. Okay Okay FiFi didn't get eaten, it elected to play hide and seek indefinitely.

Back up the hill towards the airport we headed.  The walk was brilliant and the Jungle Habitat is really close to the airport (maybe 1/3 mile at most).  I see they still haven't been able to remove that plane from the building yet. 

They had planned (or perhaps did already and now it's gone) to make the plane into a bar, but since the state owns the land, they aren't allowed to serve alcohol on it I heard.  Nowadays, it's an elevated storage shed is what the locals say.  Such a romantic history for it to be housing Ho's and such. 

SLAP.... Honey, I meant Garden Ho's!

Thanks to the gang and Greenwood Lake Airport for all their hospitality and assistance.  Po thang behind the FBO counter, I'd asked her 421 questions about the Wet Twins, the Jungle, the Constellation, and local area.  She's a real help and provided a lot of info to me.  If you want to read up on the local stuff, click HERE.

The day was still early so instead of going back to Wings Field just outside of Philly, we elected to stop in at Aeroflex Andover.  Aeroflex Andover is a fun airport to fly in too. Along with a great location, they also have a world famous tail-dragger school. This is where Harrison Ford learned to fly taildraggers at in preparation for one of his movies.  Beth and I bought a few bottled drinks before departing 4N1 and headed back West for the quick 19 mile journey to Aeroflex (12N).  As for the Viking Witch and her moving around stunt, well she was chalked but on one side only.  I think when a baby KingAir taxied by she rolled backwards onto the grass.  That was scary and I've just added bold print to the tie down checklist.  Recheck Both Chocks Secure.

Here we are turning long final to Rwy 21 at Aeroflex-Andover.  They are repaving now and the runway numbers aren't painted on the surface.  Along side and parallel to the hard surfaced runway, lays a grass runway too. 

This is a really fun airport to fly in to. The runway is about 1900 feet long and is a great place to pack a picnic lunch to bring along with you.  We spread a blanket out on grass and along with our camera and bottled drinks, we sat there and watched students learn to fly tail-draggers for a couple of hours.  It really does make for a fun and entertaining afternoon.  Bring along your scanner although a large percentage of the aircraft seem to not have radio's.  This Stinson did though, however:

This is one of the flight schools aircraft.  For the first few departure rolls, they were practicing fast taxing for rudder skills.  Later, they departed and flew around the pattern for a few times.  Very nice airplane and the sound, wow, the sound the big radial engine puts out is music!

Well, it was time to start heading back home.  We took a lot of pictures of lakes along the way.  New Jersey has lots of water that makes it some of the best locations for homes that we've seen in the area.  We are still planning for that Airpark Home with a runway in the front and lake in the back. Planning? Honey, I'm not gonna shop for no more red decorative pillows (another story)! We're saving our money for a runway!  SLAP!  Yes Dear, Sorry, I'm done now.

So we're home now and the day has been another wonderful event.  We really do enjoy getting out and having fun.  The Viking Witch makes things closer and we look forward to next weekend so we can plan something else. 

Ya'll Be Safe and We Wish You Smooth Skies!

Beth and Shane

I'm the good looking one.  SLAP! Uhm, Sorry Dear, I'm the one on the right.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Air Venture 2008 – First Timers to OshKosh and We’re Going Back!


For most every conscious pilot, the dream lives within them to attend at least one episode of OSHKOSH.  Oshkosh, more formerly known as EAA Air Venture is a week long event at Wittman Regional in OshKosh Wisconsin.  Approximately 400,000 people attend, plus another 10,000 private aircraft fly in and camp out on the airport for the week long experience.   The “experience” is a consolidated group of stuff such as air shows, static displays, seminars, workshops, fly markets, sky writings, bands, bbq’s, flight lessons, bus rides, tractor rides, cussin’ campers, mosquito bitten hollerin’ Moms’, and everything else aviation related you can think of.   Well, we were headed there and I was as excited as a tic in Michael Vick’s back yard!  Now I just had to get everything in the Viking Witch pictured below.


We headed down to the airport (Wings Field) about 7:00 am on the 30th of July.  It took us an hour, but we were finally able to get all of our gear packed into the Witch or taped to the outside. She was stuffed but I knew she was good for it and the gear actually didn’t weigh too much, it just took up space.  I checked to make sure I could get to our oxygen because I was planning on flying high and would need it when we reached altitude. We took off about 20 minutes after 8:00 am and begin our climb to 12,000 feet.  The morning was beautiful but the forecast was calling for some thunderstorm activity over yonder in Ohio about the same time we’d be reaching our first fuel stop, Wakeman Field.  Due to higher winds (stronger) at 12,000, I asked for and was granted a final altitude of 8,000 feet for this first leg along the way.  As we approached Wakeman, the clouds (and lightning) began increasing and I elected to descend early and get below the weather and out of the winds.  Before beginning our descent out of 8000 (pic 1), I asked Beth to take control of the aircraft while I worked on the approach plates, gathered the weather, and configured the aircraft for landing.  I looked over about 5 minutes later and discovered that she was no longer flying the plane (pic 2).  We would need to do an IFR descent (using instruments) through the clouds and work our way down to an altitude below the weather (pic 3) and land at Wakeman for a nature break and fill ‘em up of gas.  She sure does fly good with her eyes closed and snoring sounds coming out of her nose!

level at 8,000 feetpilot in commandweather moving in

Click on any picture throughout the blog for a larger, higher definition view

flight to wakemanWe reached our first stop in just over 3 hours.  Wakeman is positioned in Northern Ohio just a few miles south of the lake.  If you take a closer look at the picture to the left, you can see the red (thunderstorm) clouds that were between us and the airport.  We were able deviate slightly to the south and found the airport without too much difficulty.  We didn’t hang out too long once we landed because we were so excited about getting to Oshkosh, and more weather was rolling in so we didn’t want to get stuck on the ground and not be able to get airborne.  When we did land, the airport manager came out riding his bike to meet us.  He confirmed that we were here for gas (I guess they aren’t used to transient passers by) and then road off and jumped up in the truck to deliver our fuel.  We walked over to the FBO and bought a candy bar and soda while the Witch got her belly full too. Our scheduled takeoff time was approaching so it was time to go and request our clearance to our 2nd stop, Galt Airport.   Flighttime = 3:32

This leg turned out to be an interesting, frustrating, and rewarding flight.  We had taken off and soon entered the weather again and would only see the ground occasionally until we reached the airport. I had requested a short-cut over lake Michigan to the North of Chicago but the controllers were not approving any flights in that area due to whatever local procedure they had put in place to screw all the OshKosh bound aircraft along the way.  There was actually a temporary operation in place that would require all transient aircraft enroute to OshKosh to fly a 100 mile arc around Chicago to avoid their airspace.  I was an air traffic controller for along time and never have I heard of such a lame operation and dis-service to aircraft.  Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not upset with the controllers themselves, they simply follow their directives.  I’m upset with the chicken-turd who made the directive(s) to begin with.  It was probably the same skidmark that closed down Meig’s Field in the middle of the night without warning.  Anyway, I should be nice.  Sorry Mom. 

This leg was also flown at 8,000 feet.  We were continuously in and out of the clouds and lightning started getting pretty frequent. The first photo was taken outside of the clouds because I was too busy to snap photographs while in the clouds. We had moderate rain and lightning but luckily never any hail.  If we’d only been given the initial short-cut request, we’d have never even been close to this weather.  Finally when the turbulence got too crazy and the aircraft was rolling 90 degrees to the left and right, I told the controller that I would no longer continue to the West-South-West and this is when we were turned back to the North to be taken over the Southern end of Lake Michigan; this was my initial request 45 minutes earlier.  We weren’t empty of fuel but we weren’t full either so I didn’t want to get too far out in the water and dilly dally around at the controller’s amusement.  Finally, we were turned to the Northwest (pic 3) and allowed to proceed direct and next stop, Galt Airport.


Click on any picture throughout the blog for a larger, higher definition view

osh3To the left, you can see the track of our second leg.  This track exists because we flew under instrument flight rules and our progress was mapped along the way by FlightAware’s internet service.  You can see where we were given a turn to the North and vectored over the Southwestern portion of the lake.  We would end up spending right at 4 hours in the air and I can only promise you that I had to pee bad!  We knew we would be on the ground at Galt Airport for a couple of hours because Wittman (OshKosh Baby) Airport was temporarily closed to allow for the airshow to take place without arrival or departures getting in the way.  When we landed at Galt Airport, we knew we were gonna like this place.  The FBO lady came on the radio and let us know that they were having fuel specials for all aircraft enroute to OshKosh and they’d be happy to fill us up. We we getting closer to Oshkosh and both as excited as Col Sanders at a fried chicken convention.  Flighttime = 3:52

That was nice and certainly a pleasant way to be greeted after landing.  Thanks. We parked the aircraft and walked inside to see what was going on and to look for a restroom.  Again, we knew we’d be there for a couple of hours.  The FBO lady met us at the door and offered us, free of charge, the use of the airport truck to drive in to town and go sight seeing or whatever for as long as we were there.  Completely unsolicited and genuine in her offer. Yes, we knew we picked a good second airport to stop and rest up before the last leg to OshKosh.  

We drove the truck downtown and went to an Italian restaurant and ordered some fixin’s up to go.  The town was quite nice actually and everyone seemed to be friendly and drive on their own side of the street.  They even used blinkers, which is something a large percentage of Pennsylvanian’s don’t know how to do. What we really noticed was the lack of bumper to bumper traffic every where we went. The town wasn’t empty, but there weren’t 32 billion cars either, which made it enjoyable to drive a little bit and sight see.  We still had 3 hours before the airport opened at Oshkosh and 2 hours before our planned departure time.


When we returned to the airport, we started talking to this fella who was on his way home from Oshkosh.  He’d been there since day one and was on his way back home across the country.  That must be something else I thought, traveling in a “open-air” cockpit, about 200 feet off the ground at approximately 40 miles an hour. I believe he said he could go as high as 12,000 feet and twice that speed but can’t remember exactly.  That’s impressive and Ultralite flying is something that I would like to get in to as well Perhaps staring with a paraglider first.  We watched him preflight his aircraft, taxi out for departure, and finally take off and fade out into the horizon to the South.  That was cool!  Ya’ll send me money so I can do that too and write about it here.  Yay!

We went back inside for a little bit, finished our lunches, and soon it was time to continue our journey to the North. Even though the airport wouldn’t be opened when we got there, I wanted to arrive early and get in the middle of all the aircraft in holding over the lakes nearby Oshkosh.  The arrival procedures explained holding in great detail and I’d read and reread them many times as to not enter at the wrong point, altitude, or direction of turns!  This was gonna be fun and I explained to Beth that she’d have to keep her eyeballs out the window constantly looking for airplanes trying to hit us because there was going to be about 200 in the same place we were doing the same thing we were and they would probably all have to pee like I would. 

The plane was filled up and so far was averaging 9.4 gallons per hour; not bad for a PA28 @ 8,000 feet.  I knew we would be holding for a while at Oshkosh so I wanted to make sure she was full of fuel to give us more options should be need to divert.  We thanked the nice folks at the airport and promised to leave a comment on the Airnav website when we got back home on how well we were treated.  I preflighted the aircraft and we climbed aboard, fired up the engine, and took off, soon turning to the North.  It wasn’t but a few minutes later that we started hearing chatter on the radio from pilots checking in on frequency inquiring who else was in holding and where they were flying in from.  I was so excited I couldn’t stand it; if I could have stuck my arm out the window and flapped it hard enough to get there faster I would have! Instead, I pushed the throttle full forward and dropped down to a thousand feet. 

wind2We were starting to see a lot of Wind Turbines, which really interests me as they relate to what I do for a living.  I’d been doing some research on various wind farms and thought these were neat to fly over.  We descended a little further for a couple of more photo’s and soon we started seeing some of the other aircraft in the area approaching the holding points that we would be entering soon as well. 


holdingHolding Prior To Arriving At Oshkosh
I have an on-board traffic detector and had to turn it off because the crazy lady inside of it (that audibly warns us of other traffic in the area) hadn’t shut-up for nearly 45 minutes. She had been screaming for the last 20!

I couldn’t stand it any longer, I keyed the Microphone, “Oshkosh Traffic, Cherokee 8388W 10 south of Ripon, inbound from Philly, will enter holding over Green Lake as published”.  Oh Brother I Was Grinnin Now! What we were doing is flying up to Ripon (center of map), then turning Westbound (to the left) and entering a holding pattern counter-clockwise around Green Lake.  We were to remain at 1800 feet, and fly a constant airspeed of 90 knots.  As soon as we left Ripon, we started seeing more and more and more and more aircraft there with us.  We were probably one of 60 and the field still wouldn’t be opening for another 30 minutes! I was abso-damn SLAP –lutely tickled pink.

I would’ve flown naykid if I could’ve gotten my clothes off without crashing into somebody else in holding probably taking their clothes off too!

oshkoshcamping3Our arrival would be to Runway 36L and as soon as we were “released” from holding, we would fly back to RIPON, then continue on the Fisk Arrival for this runway.  If you would like to look, have a look at the OshKosh Air Traffic Control website.  They get a ton of traffic during this event and do an excellent job keeping aircraft from swapping paint while in the air.  The airport opened and we soon started entering the arrival procedure once we reached RIPON from the holding pattern.  I was following a Cessna high-wing for a little bit until an RV10 pulled in front of me, followed by a TIGER and V-Tailed Bonanza.  There were a bunch of rednecks not following the procedure so I made mental note to stop by their tents and put my foot in each of their behinds! SLAP Pilots were instructed to remain silent (except for the occasional squeal from me and other excited arriving aircraft) and acknowledge receipt of air traffic instructions by rocking their wings.  The sight from the ground must have looked like an airborne fat lady water ballet.  Everyone was rocking their wings for acknowledgement of any message, regardless if it was intended for them or not.  As we got closer to the airport, I was cleared to land and turned to final for runway 36L(left).  Each runway has 4 different colored dots on it and the controller tells you which dot to land on.  You can’t land early or late because there are other aircraft landing at the same time on the same runway, but different dot. 

I was about 20 feet off the ground when an RV7 homebuilt aircraft slid in below me and the tower controller made us “go around”.  We listened to the RV7 pilot get chewed out for the next 3 minutes. Dipshit! SLAP We entered a downwind and this time received a landing clearance for runway 36R (right).  We landed safely and taxied to our camping spot on the Northwest side of the airport.  On the ground was a line of about 200 aircraft taxiing to camping as well.  As quickly as aircraft landed and could safely do so, they would turn off the runway and enter a taxi line with all the others.  There were airplanes every where and quite a few of them turning off the runway while still going pretty fast.  Grass was being thrown up from the skidding all over and it looked like a demolition derby could have been going on but everyone was desperately trying to keep from hitting each other.  We (ATC and Pilots) were successful and no one got a fender bender.

We finally reached our parking/camping spot and exited the airplane.  I stood on the wing and declared that I needed a beer and sure enough, folks all around us were reaching in their coolers pulling out a variety of choices. We didn’t know any of these folks but had heard how wonderful the entire personality of people were that attended this experience. We would do the same for others that arrived after us.  After tying down the airplane and having that beer, we began setting up our home that we’d occupy for the next few days.

tentWe were at the end of Row 557 nearest the runway.

I have no idea why we brought all the things that we did.  For some reason, I guess we thought we’d need the blender, vacuum cleaner, hall-tree, exercise ball, Ginsu Wok, bbq tools, and snowboard.  We stored most of it in the tent and there it sat until it was time to load it up again to bring back to Pennsylvania where it would sit until we loaded it back up for next years Oshkosh experience.  We’re pretty good at taking too much stuff with us wherever we go.  You never know when you’ll need an extra TV coaxial cable.  We built the tent in record time; which took just over 2 hours for a 10 minute advertized set up duration.  We’d brought 2 cases of beer and not sure why either; we were only there for four days – we’d end up giving away 1 1/2 cases before leaving.  There was just so much to do and by the time the days were over, we were exhausted and ready to go to sleep.

We were so proud of ourselves for making it all the way to Oshkosh!  We setup our lounge chairs, pulled over the cooler, put on sun screen, turned on the scanner and watched and listened to aircraft arriving – just as we had only a couple of hours earlier. It was exciting to watch so many aircraft in close proximity to one another.  I’m sure that folks were watching us as we flew in as well.  We could see the aircraft rocking their wings and trying to cut each other off. Occasionally there would be a pilot getting scolded for being bad and the whole 400,000 of us at Oshkosh would join in at laughing at him and calling him names. 

In every direction you looked there were airplanes.  Taxiing, flying, landing, braking, taking off, rocking wings, and parking, and parked.  This was soooooo cool! 


ford trimoter

helo1Just a few of the sights that we had on Day 1. If you love or even only mildly like aviation, please do yourself a huge favor and go to Oshkosh at least once. There are hotels in the area so you don’t have to camp if you don’t want too. Ya’ll pack your bags, Air Venture 2009 is almost here!

Click on any of the pictures for a larger look.


Later that night, actually about 2:00 am the following morning, we awoke to realize that the hotel just outside the gate and about 200 yards from our tent, was hosting huge karaoke parties at night and not any of them knew how to sing any better than I.  We had heard that this same hotel had an excellent breakfast buffet, so the next morning we were planning on going.  We woke up about 5:00 am since our bodies were still on Pennsylvania time, and decided to get up and find somewhere to get cleaned up. There a large separated shower trailers and some buildings throughout the airport camping area and water buffalo’s for drinking scattered everywhere as well.  We walked over to the shower trailer and bathed and got all purtied up before heading over from breakfast and whatever else the day would present to us.  Breakfast was delish but we were both excited to get over to the action at the airport so I limited myself to thirds and we wind sprinted back to the tent to grab skeeter spray, sunglasses, and camera.

I wish I could figure out how to put words behind all that we saw.  In fact, we didn’t have a clue coming in to Oshkosh how much there would be to see on the ground.  Not only that, but Oshkosh isn’t even limited to Wittman Airport.  Surrounding airports are also participating in the craziness' and excitement of EAA Air Venture.  We didn’t even hear about the SeaPlane base until it was too late to go.  That’s on the list for next year.  We hopped on a shuttle bus that delivered us to the other side of the airport to where all the static displays, shops, food, rides, and everything else was.  The “Fly-Mart” was so cool.  Rows and Rows of aviation related stuff were setup in individual booths. I guess I should tell you the EAA stands for Experimental Aircraft Association, whereas all the parts and pieces were there for the home airplane builders to buy to continue to work on whatever flying machine they were building.  Notice I say they, and not I.  I wouldn’t fly nothing I built!  Hell Naw!  SLAP! Honey, would you fly something I built? So There. POKE!  There was so much to see.  We spend the entire morning walking around the booths and attending some fun workshops.  We attended this one seminar that was all about buying and living on an airpark.   An airpark is an private airport that has houses built around it and some have their own taxiway that goes up to there garage-hanger where they park their plane.  It was so interesting and we got out the checkbook and bought a 2 acre lot right then and there.  Later on, after having had time to think about it and realizing that we wouldn’t be able to live there on account it was on the other side of the country and we weren’t ready to retire, we went back over and I faked a tear and they gave us our check back.  The location and price and quality of this airport village is SUPERB though, and we remain in contact with them.  We actually still think about buying it again but we need to figure out what we’re gonna do when we grow up and where we’ll live.  One day we will have an airport home, guaranteed!

I brought along my GPS to get updated with new maps.  There were so many vendors of avionics, radios, headset, flight gear (fun stuff like flower bombs and stuff), and portable GPSs and everything else you can imagine.  There are huge hangers too that even more booths are set up in and I felt like as happy and excited as a Jack Russell in a fire hydrant factory; there was so much neat stuff here.  I turned around and found Beth getting clothes made with Oshkosh iron on transfers.  We got lucky because one of the shirts had a tiny little spec on it and the lady noticed it and gave us the shirt for 1/3 of the price.  Cool!  “I think that shirt has a spec on it too.”  SLAP! So, I tried.

The daily airshow was starting and for the next four hours we were deafened by the most awesome displays of airmanship that we’d seen.  There were fly-bys of vintage aircraft and explosions going off as historic battles were being recreated before our eyes.  As the day continued, the age of the aircraft flying get younger and younger and before we new it, an F22 Raptor came screaming by that caused me and 399,999 other people to shit live kittens!  SLAP! Now there all of us stinky people and kittens stood there in awe for the next 30 minutes watching this aircraft do things that defied the laws of aerodynamics.  No wonder the bad guys never fly their airplanes towards us; they have Cessna 172’s and we have F22’s.  Bring It On Fat Head!  Bring It On!  We headed back to the tent as it was time for a beer and another shower.

P7310064 me

The next day we attended some more seminars but this time Beth wouldn’t let me buy anything that cost more than a shirt. Its a good thing too because I was really eyeing the personal rocket packs that were on display. We watched more airshows and visited more booths.  There is now way we were going to even come close to seeing all that there was to see.  Next time we’ll actually sit down before we go and map out a plan of attach so we can see as much as we can.  This night we went to see the Terrafugia flying car and then a concert by a bunch of 50’s music singers.  It was really fun and we decided that since Beth hadn’t been able to get me out running for a week now, she made us walk back to the tent – over 3 miles away.  Butthead!  SLAP! POKE!

On Saturday morning we got up and rode the bus over to Target and went shopping for more stuff to put in the airplane to take back with us.  I think the only thing that we got and actually used, was a big milk jug of water to drink.  The other stuff,  we brought back over to the tent so we could throw away just before leaving; like tater salad, Bundt cake, and butterbean casserole.  Lots of folks were tearing down the tents and leaving today to have time to make it back to there homes before Monday morning.  There are attendees from all over the country and Europe who fly privately owned aircraft to attend; honest.  Look it up!  Oh, one of the things I forgot to mention is, over the years, there have been many bicycles donated to the red cross. Its apparently become custom for folks camping to walk over to the Red Cross and buy a bike for the week for a few donated dollars.  When the folks leave, the leave the bikes near the dumpsters and the Red Cross folks come and retrieve them. It works out great; its good for Red Cross and good for the campers.  We attended some more seminars and walked around and looked at the nose art of the many P51’s that were in attendance.  Aircraft owners are allowed to enter their aircraft in to a variety of contest’s.  We walked around and watched as a few Van (homebuilt airplane) aircraft were being judged.  The Viking Witch could have won a ribbon I bet cause she’s purty when I have her cleaned up and waxed. We spent the late afternoon back at the tent watching all the planes departing and headed back to their homes all over the country.  We also took another look at our flight plan for the next morning as it would be time to pack up and head back to Wings Field in Pennsylvania.  For dinner, we went back over to the hotel and ordered bar food and a beer.  The night sky was crystal clear and big stars shown the way back to our tent.

Its Sunday morning now, and time to pack up and get this airplane pointed East. We took our time putting everything into our plastic containers and cleaned up the tent as best as we could.  Slowly, everything was eventually squeezed into the Witch and the only thing left to do was tinkle before cranking her up and heading to Cleveland for our first stop.  Since this was the last day of the airshow, everybody and their mama’s were loading up and taxiing out for departure.  Instead of sitting there in line with engine running and wasting fuel, we sat around for a little bit and waiting for our line to go down a bit.  Finally it did, and we cranked up and taxied out to the runway; they had made us number 1 for departure and we ended up not having to wait at all and put in front of about 150 other aircraft approaching the runway from the other direction.  Really. 

departureAs we got airborne, Beth took a picture back over the main part of the airport.  This had been our home since Wednesday and we’d loved every minute of it.  Our intention for the route of flight we would take home, was to climb to 11,500 feet and point it towards Wings Field and stop when we needed to, either nature or fuel.  Departure procedures out of Oshkosh wouldn’t let us go IFR because of the sheer volumes of traffic so we departed straight out and 10 miles east of the airport began our climb to 11,500. I’d decided that we’d be flying directly over the center of Lake Michigan and knew that the lake was so wide that for a while we’d not be able to see land in any direction.  If the engine failed, we would be swimming in waters less than 50 degrees.  I’d look for a boat and ditch the plane near it if needbe.   We discussed it before departure and Beth was comfortable taking this route as well.  

There would be other aircraft along the same route that we could call on for assistance, if needed.


We crossed over the Western shore of Lake Michigan and all we could see in front of us was water.  It’s a eerie feeling flying out into nothingness, knowing that if something should require an immediate landing would require ditching in a cold lake.  We pressed on! 

About as quickly as the Western shore disappeared out of sight, something exploded on the Viking Witch!

At first I thought I was hearing things but when Beth asked what had just happened, I couldn’t ignore it and quit trying to will it away.  Something had exploded and I was now going through checklists trying to figure out what I was going to do.  I couldn’t see the shore in any direction and knew that the glide distance wouldn’t be sufficient to get us back to land.  Still, the airplane “felt” fine and didn’t seem to be shuttering or losing power.  I told her, “Uhm, that was just a backfire, that happens sometimes.” She and I both knew I was lying through my real teeth.  I was honestly shaken on this one, but I maintained situational awareness and kept flying the airplane.  Another explosion.  Something was happening and I couldn’t figure it out.  Beth absolutely heard the second one and now we were both sniffing for smoke and looking for things falling off the aircraft.  I thought about declaring an emergency with air traffic control, but the aircraft continued to fly properly and I couldn’t located anything broke.  I did another controllability check and all was still apparently well.  Now that they had been two explosions we began “hearing” all sorts of things going wrong with the airplane; atleast in our minds we did.  For the next 30 minutes we didn’t say much and continued listening and waiting for the worst.  I didn’t dare start a descent and stop my climb as well and we leveled off at 9,500 feet where we’d stay until getting over land.  The airplane continued to fly perfectly well and all the gauges checked in the green, meaning the plane thought she was fine too.  We decided to continue our journey after reaching land and as we approached Cleveland we began a descent for fuel and lunch.  After landing and taxiing over to parking, we got out of the airplane and inspected the engine.  Everything was fine and we still couldn’t figure it out.  Beth asked me to open the baggage compartment so she could grab her purse and as I did, a ton of Cap’m Crunch Cereal came falling out and onto the airport tarmac.  We then realized what had happened.  When we had gone to the store the day before, we bought cereal in the Styrofoam cups with the foil sealed over the top.  With them in the airplane and the airplane unpressurized, as we climber to higher altitudes the pressure was building up inside the cops.  Finally, the seal gave away and the cups exploded shooting cereal all over the baggage compartment of the plane.  We laughed and laughed, then I grabbed a new set of boxer shorts and went inside to change.  We got lunch at the airport, filled up the plane and continued our journey home. 


  The rest of the flight home was uneventful and we looked out of the left side of the window up into Canada and it’s beautiful and green country side.  Next year we’ll take a more northerly route so we can look more at it.  We did fly on instruments for a while as the weather was building a bit in the Pittsburg area. Still, nothing like the explosions over the lake.  Soon enough, we found ourselves on final into Wings and we were home.  All in all, about 1900 miles we had flown and enjoyed our first experience at Oshkosh.  We’re definitely going back and we can’t wait.    We hope to see ya’ll there and please let us know if you’re going and we’ll get together and share war stories while we are there.  Ya’ll take care.

Be Particular!

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

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