Friday, July 31, 2009

Oshkosh 2009 – Under the Rainbow

Airbus A380

Detroit, with the 398 nautical miles and Lake Erie between us, seemed so far away. This would be our fuel stop between Wings Field outside of Philadelphia, and Oshkosh Wisconsin. I’d flight planned longer distances before but always ended up settling for a closer fuel stop.  I figured the Viking Witch could make it but knew I couldn’t without a nature break. Usually I have to go just after takeoff and upon entering the clouds and IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) as my luck always works this way.  I did, however, elect to go to Detroit this time because I found an empty tequila mixer bottle that I could bring along to tinkle in just after departure.  I wasn’t sure what Beth was gonna do; but I hoped she brought a bottle for her too cuz she wasn’t gettin’ mine!  SLAP!  “Pee in your own cup woman!”  SULLLLAP!

Following my normal preparedness techniques, I began packing at 4:00 am on Saturday, July 25, 2009, which was 2 hours and forty minutes before we were to get airborne.  I had filed for an 0640 departure and between now and then I had to find the tent, the tent stakes, my clothes, the cooler for the Yuengling’s I’d bought, and my brand new Flight Cheetah FL190 weather receiving GPS tablet computer.  Beth had followed her preparedness technique as well and went shopping everyday beginning two weeks prior and bought everything, in every store, from here to New York City and back.  She bought clothes for all four seasons using a week’s stay at Oshkosh as an excuse for all the things she’d bought. She’s crazy SLAP!, but very beautifully dressed.  Honey, have you seen my credit card?  When we walked out to pack the car to go to the airport, we discovered that our neighbors car had been wrapped up with all the other neighbors newspapers.  We had to laugh as we watched folks coming out looking for their newspapers.  I’m telling you what, if you want an exciting life, come move in the whacky neighborhood we live in!  It’s entirely a fun time, all the time!  At least it wasn’t one of  ours this time. Our block is affectionately called the Trailer Park.

We left the house at 6:15 a.m. flying down the road like a crazy woman headed to a all-you-can-wiggle-pedicure sale.  I gave the weather fella’s a call and they confirmed what the weather channel had already told me; rain, wind, fog.  I’m sure I’d have to pee.  I had my departure time pushed back an hour just in case and it turned out to be just about right; we got airborne at 7:37! 
We tried to be more realistic this year and not bring everything we owned so instead of packing 1800 pounds of baggage we backed off to 1500 pounds and decided to buy the rest once we got there. 
It only took us 30 minutes this time to pack up, but a lot more duct tape was used.  Oh, this year we decided to take lawn chairs (the kind that lay out long) but never even took them out of the plane.  SonuvabitSLAP!  We did manage, however, to take every one of her shoes!  SLAP!
I gave Philadelphia a call on the frequency and they gave us our clearance to Detroit.  It was starting to become believable that we were going to Oshkosh EAA Air Venture 2009!
I was grinning from ear to ear!

Wings Field to Detroit   Our route took us over Reading, Williamsport, and Erie Pennsylvania, Canada, and finally in to Detroit Michigan.  

    T + Twenty Minutes after departure,
my bottle was full!

Armed with our brand new NexRad weather receiving GPS, off we went towards our first stop of Detroit. Although we overflew parts of Canada, we never saw it because we were right smack dab in the middle of the clouds. The ride remained very smooth and Beth was able to enjoy her Duncan Donuts coffee and muffin without interruption; I was able to get one (1) donut hole and a spoonful of coffee before departing because I knew I’d have to go; and did.  Soon, I had to ask Beth to take control of the airplane because I needed to aim into an empty tequila bottle and hope to not fill it.  We were in the clouds and on instruments and I quickly gave Beth the crash course (no pun intended) on instrument flying before giving her the controls so I could aim.  I could sense the airplane entering a right roll and now I’m aiming with one hand, holding the bottle with the other, throttling back with my right foot and rolling back to the left with my left foot while still watching my aim cuz it wasn’t about to “stop” on command.  Wings level, still peein’, and back on course – I finally finished and all was good.  I really need to send her to the Pinch Hitters course!  Just after leaving the shoreline at Erie, the GPS lost it’s mind and decided to shut itself off – along with the “weather awareness” it had been providing!  I was looking forward to evaluating the approach features Glideslope Feature on FL190 of the new GPS but didn’t have time to reboot the thing and troubleshoot what had gone wrong before being cleared for the ILS 33 approach  in to Detroit.  We broke out of the clouds about 500 feet and the runway was right where I’d planned on it being – in front of us!  YAY. Four hours and 6 minutes after takeoff and we were on the ground and I had just completed my longest leg ever in the Viking Witch, N8388W.  
There are two fuel facilities at Detroit. One is owned by the city and is a self-service pump that sells aviation 100LL fuel and the other is an FBO (Fixed Based Operator) named Signature that has fuel trucks that will come and fill up your tanks for you.  The self service pumps have no on-field employees there to assist you. Signature has several very nice employee’s and one wicked witch of Detroit Michigan. Ho! SLAP! Ho! SLAP! After landing we taxied over to the self-service fuel because the price of the fuel was half that of which Signature was selling theirs for.  We filled up and instead of getting our flight plan clearance for the flight from Detroit to Oshkosh, we decided to taxi over to the Signature parking area so Beth could use the ladies room; I had already gone in the weeds so I was good.  After parking, a Signature fuel dude drove up to see if we needed anything. I told him we just wanted to run in to use the restroom and he smiled, pointed the way, and bid us a safe journey to Oshkosh.  All was good.  As soon as we walked in to the terminal, the Ho! SLAP! Ho! SLAP! lady yelled that I “owed” her $28.50 for services.  “What services”, I asked.  She demanded, “Well Who Parked You!!!!?”  I did, I replied.  “Well, Who Filled Your Gas Tanks!!!!!!!!?”  I did that too, I replied.  She then said again that I owed her $28.50 for services and I let her know quite loudly that I didn’t owe her anything and I was absolutely prepared to discuss that with her manager or whomever else she wanted to call.  Beth finished and as we were walking out, the Ho! SLAP! Ho! SLAP! lady said “Well, be sure to stop here on the way back from Oshkosh for fuel since she let me “slide” this time.  I laughed AT her and said whatever. 
During all this time there had been another pilot paying for his fuel and watching the whole show of this lady riding her broom stick around the terminal building.  He stopped me before getting in the plane and asked how much I’d paid for my fuel.  When I told him and he realized that I’d paid less than half of what he paid, he said he’d never be back to their again either.  We chatted for a little bit and discovered that we were both from Southeast Pennsylvania, less than 12 miles apart. He is from Doylestown Pennsylvania and is the owner of
Underwater World (a SCUBA shop); I also SCUBA dive so he’s definitely a good guy. “Mike” is also the owner of a really nice Piper Arrow.   What a small world huh?

We hopped back in the aircraft and I called the tower and picked up our flight plan clearance from Detroit to Oshkosh and we were soon on our way.  For this leg, I decided we’d climb up to 10,000 feet in case there was a problem crossing over Lake Michigan.  If we happened to be in the middle of the lake and the engine quit, we wouldn’t be able to glide to shore, but it would give us some valuable time to holler like hell and try to learn how to fly on our own.  I wonder if Beth’s shoes float?  SLAP!!!! Perhaps those lounge chairs would that we had but didn’t realize we’d never unpack.  Nice idea honey.  SLAP!!!!  The engine ran fine and we didn’t end up having to swim to shore.  The airway that crosses over Lake Michigan along our route is called V510.  We flew V510 over the lake and began our descent out of 10,000 feet for a new assigned altitude of 4000 feet to prepare for the VOR Rwy 27 approach into Oshkosh. 


The Flight Cheetah FL190 had been rebooted and all appeared normal.  We’re flying along V510 from Muskegon Michigan to Falls VOR in Wisconsin, right about the middle of the lake.  The altitude on the GPS shows 8440 and we had just started our descent out of 10,000 feet.  We could hear a little bit of traffic on the radio but since the actual event wasn’t starting until Monday, there was still a lot of aircraft that hadn’t left to come out to Oshkosh yet.  The picture below shows Oshkosh as we approach from the East.  We would be parking down on the left side of this runway (runway 27).  See how open it is on the right side of the runway.  That whole area would be full by Sunday night!  We broke out of the weather after descending through 3400 feet and cleared for the approach in to Oshkosh.  We were cleared to land runway 27 on the Green Dot and soon we were on the ground.  We were at OSH!


For my pilot and controller buddies, our clearances were as follows: 

Leg 1,       Duration 4:06 KLOM PTW RAV V170 ERI V116 YQG KDET   @  6,000 feet.
Leg 2,       Duration 3:07 KDET DUNKS V170 LESSY LAN V2 MKG V510 OSH  KOSH    @ 10,000 feet.


I nailed the Green Dot with the main gear touching down right in the center of the green circle, slowed down a bit and turned off the runway into the grass and began following the marshallers that would be directing us to our parking spot.  The marshallers are all volunteers that come in to see the airshow too.  They volunteer their time for a day while they are there and are taught a job for that day.  It sounds really fun to do and I think one day we’ll volunteer too.  I hope Beth doesn’t get a plane director’s role because there will no doubt be a traffic jam!  SLAP!  I can see the headlines now “Crazy Woman Causes Pile Up At The Oshkosh Aircraft North 40 Campground”, SULLLLAAAAAAP! Like Stevie Wonder shootin’ skeet; everybody would be running in different directions! SLAP! About the time I earned that arsh whoopin, it started to rain!

Oshkosh Rainbow 

We still had to set up the tent, find ice for the beer, unpack Beth’s shoes, SLAP!, find something to eat, and do it all in umbrella’s and poncho’s!  Lucky for us, the rain only lasted about 10 minutes and it took us that long to taxi to our camping spot.  There were airplanes everywhere and it was only Saturday – 2 days before anything started; except of course the drinking!  As we were taxiing to our spot, Mother Nature presented us with a beautiful rainbow.  This would be a recurring gift from the HO! SLAP! because she would make it rain Saturday through the morning of Tuesday.
We got the tent set up before the sun went down and I was able to get a few photo’s of some of the planes in our immediate area.  We found out quickly that one of our neighbors to the right of us was also from Doylestown.  It’s pretty wild meeting two people out of 800,000 in attendance that live right down the road from you.   

North 40 a North 40 b North 40 c





The Viking Witch Below (From the Front & Back). The GAC in the windows stands for General Aviation Camping so the marshallers would know where to direct our taxi. 
The Viking Witch Tail & Tent The Witch from the front
Finally we got the tent set up and Beth’s shoes inside.  Beth spent the next hour and 1/2 setting up the inside with all the “roughing it” gear we’d brought along to include a Koehler faucet, chest of drawers, closet, vanity mirror & lighting, dirty clothes basket, air mattress, sheets, and space pillows.  I’d have settled for a sleeping bag on the grass and a stick to brush my tooth.  I didn’t mention it to her yet, that during setting up of the tent, I kinda, sorta, perhaps split one of the poles that holds the whole tent up.  I knew if the wind blew, the tent was going to collapse so I was going to sleep on the East side of the tent – furthest away from the possible fall line.  Even more so, if it rained and was windy and collapsed, I’d not get wet or clobbered by a falling tent. Yay!  SLAP!

There would end up being over 11,000 smaller aircraft and 800,000 folks in attendance for Oshkosh Air Venture 2009.

We spent the rest of the afternoon meeting the neighbors and then went over to Friar Tuck’s Pub, which was just outside the airport fence, and had dinner and the local beer.  I guess we were more exhausted than we realized because just after 7:00 PM CST, we found ourselves almost falling asleep in our plates and both appeared to be in a daze from the “prop lag” that we must have been experiencing. 

We paid the check and walked outside just in time to see the 2nd rainbow of the day. We could hear it storming outside as we were eating and kinda waited until it settled down.  As we were standing outside waiting for it to totally quit raining, we ran into our Doylestown SCUBA buddy, Mike, again.  We chuckled at how slim the chances were that we’d run into each other again amidst the hundreds of thousands of people already there. 

A few minutes later we walked back over to the airport and around the runway’s edge towards our tent.  Each one of these trips we would make on foot was over a mile each way so we’d end up walking and jogging almost 37 miles during the week.  We have the Garmin GPS watches that we use for jogging so we knew the 37 miles was accurate and since I was exercising so much I’d get to drink more beer!  YAY.  

Sunday morning came early and after almost 10 hours of sleeping, I woke up to the sound of sprinkle on the tent ceiling and Beth shrieking at the fact that her side of the tent had somehow collapsed and soaked her sleeping bag! hehe SLAP SLAP SLAP!.  I acted like I was still sleeping while Beth “discovered” the numerous holes that we apparently have in our tent.  I’m not sure how they got there but we’d let the youngens borrow the tent a time or two so they must have drove stakes through the tent. Little turds!  SLAP! I’m gonna shave the boys head when I see him.Oshkosh Tower  After Beth dried the tent out and got all of her shoes elevated enough to not get wet from the small stream that ran through the West side of the tent, we grabbed our toiletries and walked up towards the showers that were 1/2 mile up the taxiway.  Beth is lucky she’s a girl (me too) because there are only about 1/20th the amount of women at Oshkosh so the ladies showers were a lot less packed than the fella’s showers.  There are 32 showers on each side and there is probably never less than 50 dudes in line to wash their parts.  On the outside of the entire shower building there are numerous wall plugs so you can charge your phone, camera, and aviation scanner, oh and the ladies hair dryers.  The entire community of folks there seem to be quite honest as nobody seems to worry about the expensive gear they leave plugged into the outlets whilst they go shower.  That’s a nice feeling to know that there are so many honest people out there; many more than we probably realize.  After everything was washed, teeth brushed, whiskers shaved and hair dried, we walked back over to the tent to drop off our shower stuff and then began our long walk, 2 miles this time, to Target and Starbucks.  There was a shuttle bus that ran back and forth to Target, but it wouldn’t start until Monday – the official start date of EAA Air Venture.  We picked up a few things from the store and also got a large cup of coffee.  Oh, I was able to get a big bag of ice for the cooler and even managed to get it back over to the tent before most of it melted.  I learned a 20 pound bag of ice weighs a helluva SLAP! lot more than 20 pounds after carrying it for 2 miles. After feeling came back to my arms and the beer was on ice, we grabbed our breakfast that we’d bought, chairs, camera, scanner, and coffee and walked over to the runway to watch the conga line of aircraft arriving at Oshkosh.  Although there are tower air traffic controllers “in” the tower, there are also a bunch of controllers on trailers beside each runway where they are also controlling arriving aircraft too. 

The wind had continued to be as strong as it was the day before at around 18 knots with gusts to 28.  Fortunately, the direction from which it came was within 30 degrees of heading right down the runway so most pilots were able to land without too much dancing down the runway.  There were a few that did go around to try again; which was the safest move for them to do.  I’m glad they didn’t think they “had” to land with so many folks sitting along the runway watching. That peer pressure has no doubt been a contributing factor to many of mishaps in the past.  We sat and watched arrivals for a few hours and recorded some of it. 

Click on the “play” button to hear a couple of minutes of air traffic controllers working the arrivals in to Runway 27.  Here is the Arrival Procedure the aircraft were following. Remember, the show hadn’t even started yet, so these controllers weren’t even busy yet.  During the peak arrival period, the controllers would work for about 20 minutes before being relieved by another controller.  After a couple of days, we’d start to recognize voices and new which ones were good and which ones were, uhm, less gooder.  That’s when we’d all get together and watch the airshow!  Nobody scratched paint although sometimes we weren’t sure how!  

It was recommend that we take the free shuttle over to the Oshkosh Museum, so we walked over to the bus stop and caught the shuttle to the Oshkosh Museum that we honestly didn’t even know existed.  We were certainly happy we did go over as this is a really fun place to visit.  Lot’s of aircraft on display, movies playing all the time, helicopters rides in progress, and a huge store filled with goodies.  They even have a full motion simulator. I tried to get Beth to go in it, but unfortunately SLAP! she saw it in action and realized it went upside down.  I can’t fathom the arsh whoopin SLAP! I’d have gotten if I’d been able to get her in that thing and did a barrel roll or two!   We spent a couple of hours there at the museum and then caught the bus back over to the vendor area to have a look around at what would be open during the week.

The bus park is only a couple of hundred feet from the main show area which is situated just West of the Tower. There are four large hangers and tons of other displays from each aircraft, avionics, and gadget company aviation and/or speed related.  I say speed because there were boats, race cars, motorcycles, and souped up golf carts all around.  The vendors were still setting stuff up but we were able to find something to eat for lunch and a place to sit.  Here is one of the “speed” things we came upon while walking around. I had to splice this picture together as it was too big (and not enough room behind me) to get the whole truck and trailer in one picture.  Those are jet exhausts just behind either side of the cockpit.  We saw later that the truck cap lifts up and two wide screen displays come up from each side of the bed and plays jetboat.

We walked around for a bit longer looking at all the setup activity going on and then headed for the aircraft parking area to look at the various aircraft that people flew in.  There were probably already 4,000 aircraft on the field at this time and everyone was busy setting up their campsite, polishing up their aircraft, watching the arrival airshow, or watching everyone else do those things too, as we were.  By the time we got back though, the thunder clouds had moved back in and rain was threatening to come down upon us once more.  Beth barely got inside the tent before the bottom fell out of the clouds and thinking quickly I turned around and told her I was going to restroom.  Why?  Because I knew once the tent started leaking she would be losing her mind SLAP! and there was no way that I wanted to be within striking SLAP! distance and in an confined area during crazy time!  After running over to the porta-potty, I stopped back by the neighbors who were out standing underneath their wing drinking Southern Comfort on the rocks. Not wanting to be a bad neighbor, I quickly accepted the offer of one for me too.  An hour and 25 minutes later, I saw Beth down the row of airplanes with a flashlight calling me by name.  She must have thought I’d got lost and came out of the tent and turned left to go look for me.  If she’d have turned right, she would have found me one plane over with another Southern Comfort on the rocks in hand.  I knew I was in big trouble so I just giggled while I could SLAP!
Having not eaten in an hour of so, everyone started talking about dinner and where everybody else was going.  We ended up going as a group to this little kitchen right across the street from the airport that was a secret to all besides the locals.  We walked up, waited for a couple of booths, and proceeded to have an awesome home cooked meal that was fantastically delicious.  We all agreed that we’d be back to this place again and with full belly’s, we all headed back towards the airport and the North 40 tent city.  There was an opening night celebration back at the “theater in the woods” so Beth and I walked all the way back past the main event area and took our seats just as the guest speaker was coming on stage. Dennis E. Fitch walked out and looked at the crowd for a moment.  When he began speaking, there wasn’t a sound being made.  See, Dennis was the instructor pilot who was riding (deadheading) back to his home base aboard the ill-fated DC-10 over 20 years ago that crashed in Sioux City.  Dennis wasn’t in the cockpit when the trouble started, but certainly had a major part of lessening the loss of life on that plane.  His recount of the incident took an hour and we all gave him our undivided attention.  I’m really happy we were able to listen in.  Afterwards, we walked back in the dark towards our campsite.  It was late when we reached our tent so we wished everyone a good night and went in for the night.  As I lay on my dry side of the air mattress, SLAP! I was nice and shared the covers that she’d shared with me and we slept soundly until the next morning. 

DSC_0608We woke up Monday morning to the sound of aircraft engines running.  The field opens up at 6:00 am for departures and arrivals an hour or so later.  I found it odd that folks were already leaving but learned later that many flights come in on Saturday like we did, and then during the week will go on short flights to surrounding areas for sight seeing and then return to fly the conga line Ripon-Fisk arrival back into the airport.  We watched a few departures then Beth had a terrible idea and made me get dressed to go running.  I threw myself at the ground to fake an injury and tripping, but it was soggy and now I was just wet, muddy, and standing there in my shorts & running shoes dripping.  Damn! SLAP! We must have run a couple of hundred miles around the airport even though my GPS only said less than 4 but I’m thinking it was in err since it wasn’t calibrated for Oshkosh terrain (Beth is looking at me like I’m crazy and reminds me that there is no such thing as calibrating for Oshkosh terrain).  Whatever; she’s crazy and I’m not.  SLAP!  After barely pulling together the strength to go and shower, shave, and SLAP!, we headed over to the Target and Pick and Save to get coffee and a muffin and probably lots of stuff we didn’t need.  We’re good at that; we’ll go in for Q-tips and come out owning most of the store. Sl……. (she knows it true so she just warmed up a little).  I was starting to come to life right around 8:00 am when we got back from grocery shopping and walked over to the main vendor displays.  John Deere is one of the sponsors and there are bunches of John Deere Green Tractors pulling everyone around the airport in wheeled trolley’s.  Each tractor has a driver of course, but there is also a “volunteer” that sits in the very back of the trailer and hollers at people for sticking their arms out the window or climbing over the seats and being bad in general.  They also get to holler at the driver when it appears safe to drive away from the loading and unloading zone so they are given their own microphone and loudspeaker.  You know I’m volunteering for that role one day.  “Lady with the Blue Hair,  Please Sit Down!”  SLAP! I’m all over it!  If they let me drive a tractor we’re going off-roading until they catch me.DSC_0572

We walked over to the ultralite area and got to watch a bunch of cool aircraft that were doing their own little airshow. Many of them were home made, some one-of-a-kind, and some didn’t even have sides – just bars.  Very cool and I know I would love to have a coupla-three of them too.DSC_0574 There are certain restrictions on the aircraft to allow them to participate in certain “categories” of aircraft. Each category has its own set of rules to live by including weight, speed, fuel capacity, and a few other particulars.  I saw that there would be a presentation the following morning entitled “Introduction to Powered Paragliders”. I would absolutely be attending that one for sure as I want to learn how to pilot the powered paragliders and fly around the backyard for a bit. We stayed for a while and then headed for the center of the vendor area as it was time for a bite to eat and a look at the homebuilt composites. flight I figured lunch would be about as expensive as movie theater meals.  I was right.

About the same time we left the ultralites, a large flock of aircraft flew overhead and around the surrounding towns leaving a trial of smoke behind.  They kept a nice tight and clean formation throughout their demonstration.  There was also a four ship that screamed by in front of them and entered a midfield break for the overhead pattern – smoke on the whole time as well.  I was listening in to my scanner and heard a controller giving traffic on White Knight II so we boogied up to the flightline quickly to watch the arrival of the space delivery vehicle called White Knight II. We had heard it was coming in today and the first glimpse we got of it really looked cool and showed a very odd looking twin tailed aircraft. 

WKIIWKIIbWhat a cool aircraft.  The theory is, they attach a spacecraft in the center of the wing and carry it to a high altitude where the spaceship then starts it’s engines, and blasts off in to space.  It looks like such a fragile aircraft but the word is, it’s terrifically strong!  It would be my luck to have the left side shoot off to the left somewhere and the right, to the right.  Actually, the cockpit is on the right and the windows on the left are actually only painted on and don’t  really exist at all.  We watched the arrival show by the WhiteKnightII for a few minutes and then started looking at some of the aircraft parked all about the airport. 

So many cool aircraft were in every direction we looked.  The new Army Medical Helicopter and the cool looking Duetsche Push/Pull Prop, and Duggy (a/k/a Daisy by the crazy one, SLAP! ) the yellow smiley faced DC3. The official airshow hours are between 3:30 – 6:30 CST but with the awesome amount of arrivals and departures, its pretty much an airshow all the time.  It was getting later in the afternoon and the beer had been on ice for quite some time so it was time to go have a swaller or two to make sure it hadn’t gone off.  It didn’t. 

We noticed that the clouds were starting to build again and so I grabbed another beer. I had a great idea that if it rained hard, I’d wash the plane using the rain water to rinse her off, so I had another beer.  I prepped my washing supplies so I had a washing glove on one hand, wash soap sitting on the tail, I was wearing a $1.47 poncho that I bought from the Wal-Mart, and grabbed another beer in my other hand.  When I heard Beth holler that the tent was leaking SLAP! I knew it was time to start washing.  I squirted some soap on my glove and started washing like a crazy girl on the price is right.  I was able to get about 2/3s of the plane washed before the rain became a drizzle and not quite enough to rinse her off sufficiently.  I had bought two gallon sized water jugs but used them to finish rinsing off the suds instead of trying to finish up.  I knew it would rain again so I’d have more opportunities to wash her nose off before departing for Wings Field later in the week. By the time I got everything put away, it was time for another beer and the sun was getting way low on the horizon.  We walked back over to Friar Tucks for a great fish sammich and local wheat beer.  Both were delish and filled our bellies.  The field closes to arrivals at 8:00 pm, so the walk back to the tent was quiet of aircraft engines, but all throughout the camp, I could hear other crazy women SLAP! hollering about the rain water soaking their sleeping bags and clothes. I’m so glad that I brought plenty of clothes right honey?  Honey? SunuvaSLAP! I swear I saw a grin in her eyes when she relayed that it didn’t appear that the pile of boxers she’d reminded me to pack actually got packed in my bag that I was responsible for packing.  I knew it was gonna be an early morning because I was bringing my shorts with me to the showers and I was gonna take over the place to get some clean drawers! SLAP!


Tuesday morning did in fact come early and by 5:45, I had already washed me and my drawers in the shower facility and had them drying on the prop.  I knew it would take a while for them to dry so my plan was to get over to the show area as quickly as possible so everyone wouldn’t see the hillbilly who owned them.  I wasn’t too worried though, because Beth didn’t know that I had hung them out so she was just hanging out and everybody around us thought she’d done it and she was the lil redneck girl.  hahaha!  Lil Red!  SLAP! ouch.  Today was going to be a way cool day.  The A380 would be arriving, we’d get to see a helicopter do loops, and we were be going over to the sea plane base for a look at their operations.  First stop:  The Seaplane Base!

In order to to get to the sea plane base, we had to take a bus as it was about 5 miles away down country roads with live wild dogs, snakes, and crazy people.  The lake is only 1 mile short of Rwy 27 approach end, but the seaplane base is offset to the South a bit.  The seaplane base has quite a few vendors set up too. Mostly there are seaplane salesman, float vendors, and a bunch of life preserver dudes selling their latest models. 

The bus ride took about 10 minutes and dropped us off by the edge of the woods.  We could hear stuff going on down a trail so everyone on the bus became lemmings and followed the first dude in the line.  Glad he didn’t take a wrong turn.  About 1/4 of a mile down the trail, the woods opened up into a beautiful cove along the shoreline.  There were seaplanes everywhere! I could smell corn on the bbq and it smelled delish!  BTW, that’s the only way we eat it!  Soak corn in water (under water is best) for about an hour while it’s still inside the shuck.  Don’t cut any shuck off!!!!!  After it soaks for an hour, throw it straight on the grill just like that and roll it over after 10 minutes and cook it for 10 on the new side.  It’ll be hot when you shuck it now, but it’ll also be the best corn you’ve ever eaten!  Nice! Anyway, sure enough there was bbq’ing corn and burgers and dawgs and taters.  We walked around for about an hour looking at all the planes and watching a few take off and land on/from the water.  It’s really neat to see.  We looked at the booths that were setup and they were lots of water-related “stuff” as expected.  Click on the pics to see them up close. We got smart before we left for the seaplane base and filled up a small cooler with ice, water, fruit, sammiches, cheese curds, snap peas, and chocolate.  It was just after 11:30 am by the time we finished walking around so we sat down at a picnic table and unpacked our big lunch and ate and ate and ate.  We finished up with some fresh fruit and headed back to the bus stop to get back to the airport in time for the A380 arrival.  We barely made it!

After jumping off the bus and trotting over to the trolley, we were enroute to the flight line when we saw a huge thing hanging in the sky.  It was, of course, the arriving A380 in slow flight.  It appeared just to hang there in the sky but was actually probably moving over 150 miles an hour, at a minimum. They would be giving tours in this heffer and yes, I’d be standing in line to go aboard.

steep climb2


We weren’t close enough to the runway to see it actually land, but apparently, it was a very VERY hard landing and the pilot pretty much flew the aircraft into the runway and the wings bent quite a long ways down and there were a lot of post landing inspections that had to be completed over night.  If you look on YouTube, you can probably find a video of it if you search for A380 Oshkosh.  I saw the video and it was kinda surprising that they pretty much crash landed.  We watched it taxi in to parking and soon heard the crackle of the intercom announcing the beginning of the airshow!  First up, the Red Bull Helicopter!

View Red Bull Helicopter Show  Oshkosh 2009This dude is crazy.  I’ve never seen a helicopter do what this fella could do with it.  Very graceful in flight and he did maneuvers that put g’s on the rotor blades.  I was definitely impressed.  Here’s a whole album of just his show.  Click on any one of the pics to bring up larger views.  During the show he was taking questions and providing answers as he did loops and rolls.  Really a great show! We stayed on the flightline of runway 36, which was the airshow active runway, for about two hours and then headed back to the tent to get ready for dinner, drinking, and watching/listening to the arrival train of hundreds of aircraft that were in holding outside of the towers airspace.  Every afternoon about 30 minutes before the airport reopens (after the airshow ends), airplanes start showing up at holding points Southwest of Oshkosh airport.  It is quite fun to watch the conga line trek its way to the airport.  We have a scanner that we listen to and watch all the aircraft react to the instructions that the tower is giving to them.  If you missed the short 2 minute audio up top, have a listen, it’s pretty cool!

We filled up the cooler, grabbed the chairs and camping table, scanner and sunglasses and headed out to the runway’s edge of runway 27, which would be the arrival runway for the daily arrivals of aircraft into Oshkosh.  Scooter Escort Service As the aircraft land and exit the runway, there are a bunch of volunteers waiting along side of the runway that I was telling you about earlier.  The “topgun” marshallers get to ride mopeds around the field and “taxi” the aircraft to their parking spots.  It’s quite busy and you can see in the picture to the right that the moped dude ain’t watching where he’s going so it must be a lady driver SLAP!SLAP!SLAP!SLAP!.  JUST KIDDING.  He intercepted this aircraft and directed him to parking just 3 planes down from where we were.   Beth wants to drive one of these mopeds next year and all I can say is I’m glad I’ll already be parked when she starts directed running aircraft!  SLAP! 

Sunset Over Oshkosh

After the arrival of aircraft ended for the day, we walked back over to the tent and sat outside for a bit and laughed and cut-up and told story’s with the neighboring aircraft owners.  It was fun and we made some good friends. Speaking of which, each day dozens of presentations, how-to classes, workshops, and seminars took place on a multitude of topics dealing with everything from building aircraft to interpreting the weather.  There were a bunch of topics in between as well, like Aerial Photography. We wanted to attend this class and gained some good information from the presentation.  Coincidentally, one of our North 40 tent neighbors we met is a professional pilot and actually owns his own aerial photography business,  Real nice fella and full of laughs. Beth, Dick, and I went to breakfast together the following morning over at the Hilton just outside the perimeter fence of the airport.  I think I asked him 11, 428 questions about photography and airborne picture taking.  We love to take photos of our journeys and any pointers we can get helps us that much more.  Dick  is also putting together a training course that teaches not only the fun part of his business (snapping photos), but the necessary part as well - the business end.  He's good people and we hope to see him again at a future Oshkosh.

Going Home Early 0

There are weather briefers at various locations around the airport. These are manned by meteorologists and they provide pilots with current and forecasted weather patterns and such.  The weather along our route from Oshkosh to Wings Field in Philadelphia wasn't going to be pretty over the next few days but our best chance of a no thunderstorms flight would occur on Thursday.  We had planned on leaving Friday because we wanted to attend our neighbors wedding on Saturday; same neighbors whom caused us to become volunteer fire fighters last Superbowl Sunday.  Anyway, the weather patterns indicated a better flight day to be Thursday so we made plans to return a day early and make a long weekend out of it back at home. 

Since today would be our last day at Oshkosh, we wanted to make the best of it so we walked around looking at everything we could take in.  We spent a lot of time in each of the four large vendor hangers looking at all the neat stuff that was coming out.  Things like inexpensive HUDs (Heads Up Displays) for general aviation, IR technologies, NVG's (Night Vision Goggles), and other cool video gear that enables you to see the airport in pitch black conditions.  Lots of airplane parts, paints, and procedures as well.  I could have stayed in there all day but didn't want to miss that other stuff left to be seen.

babytwinTours were being giving in the Airbus A380 so Beth and I headed up to get in line and get our chance for a peek inside.  Ironically, the A380 pilot had flown the world’s smallest twin engine aircraft in to Oshkosh 20 years ago and had now flown the world’s largest passenger aircraft in this year.

One thing that I was surprised about was the fact that most of the interior of the airplane was open with wires and stuff hanging out.  Once explained though, it made sense.  The A380 is still not "in production" if you will.  Numerous tests are still being completed and several configurations of test gear are shuffled between flights.  There are large water buckets to simulate the weight of passengers in each row with only a few real seats strewn about.  Actually, the seats are for the testers and not representations of what the real seating will look like.  The tour started on the top floor and we worked our way to the back of the aircraft, down a wide staircase, then back towards the front.  The cockpit was closed to visitors but I was able to take a picture of a picture to give you an idea of what was behind the doors. It was pretty impressive and makes me wonder how the B787 will compare. 

Afterwards, we decided to mosey back to the tent and begin packing up our stuff.  We would get as much ready as possible and pack what we could in order to leave around 8:00 am.  I had filed an IFR flight plan and had reserved a departure slot for the same time. If departing VFR (visually), we wouldn't need a slot time and could simply follow the marshallers out to the runway, wait for clearance for takeoff, and then head east - however the (forecasted) weather wouldn't allow for that so we filed IFR (instruments).  By the time we finished packing what we could, the Viking Witch looked like Sanford and Sons truck with all sorts of stuff crammed in. It's a good thing we had the chairs we never took out!  SLAP! Dick had already packed up (he didn’t have the chairs and shoes to deal with, SLAP! ) and headed back home and our immediate neighbors Rob and Bob, whom I had had a swaller of Southern Comfort on the rocks with were packing up too.  Rob owns a Cherokee that is also parked at Wings (we didn’t know each other prior to Oshkosh), and Bob owns a beautiful V-Tailed Bonanza. 

After most everything that could be packed up was packed up, we headed over for a bite to eat, a sip of local beer, and then off to bed for an early rise.

Thursday Morning.  “Honey, it’s raining”.  We woke up early and went and showered while the line was still short so it wouldn’t take so long to get ready to get airborne.  Afterwards, we caught the bus over to the Pick & Save to get some Cheese Curds for our buddies Annette & Allison & Brandon & Rob and ice for the cooler to keep them from spoiling.  I was beginning to worry about making our slot time, but there weren’t a lot of people and traffic out since it was raining, foggy, and reduced visibility.  We got everything back to the plane and packed in the cooler before taking down the tent to put on board the plane.  I’m not sure how we did it, but we got all the shoes, makeup, hairspray, blankets, pillows, snacks, and necessities aboard the Viking Witch and was still able to close the door. tap tap tap.  Rob and Bob got airborne just a few minutes before we did and were headed south to Chicago before heading East towards Philadelphia.  N48ABa

I couldn’t believe it but the weather broadcast was stating the field was under VFR (visual) flight conditions.  I called Clearance Delivery and picked up my IFR clearance to Ashtabula Oh, which is just outside of Erie Pennsylvania by 10 miles.  The controller told me not to start engines yet and to wait for her call because Milwaukee was delaying departures due to weather.  Five minutes later I called back and got another 15 minute delay.  This happened twice more and then I asked if I could keep my IFR open, but depart VFR and pick up the actual clearance overhead Lake Michigan.  The controller did some coordinating and approved my request.   I immediately cranked up the engine and we began taxiing at the direction of the Marshallers and was soon airborne.  My IFR request had delayed us by an hour while my VFR request got us airborne in less than 5 minutes from the time we started taxiing. 

After getting airborne we turned to the North until leaving the tower’s airspace before turning back to the East and starting a climb up to 7500 feet.  We weren’t able to climb straight to altitude because we left under visual rules and it would be our responsibility to see and avoid other aircraft and to remain clear of clouds.  As soon as we received our instrument clearance we would then be allowed to enter the clouds.  We dodged clouds and other aircraft for about 40 miles and then in the center of Lake Michigan on V510 I called Muskegon approach and received our IFR (instrument) Clearance.  We descended to 7000 and immediately entered the clouds to not see the ground again until 10 miles off-shore of Lake Erie descending into Ashtabula County airport.

After landing in Ashtabula, I taxied up to the fuel “pit” to the self-service pump and stopped short to allow another Piper in front of me to finish fueling his aircraft. “Honey, isn’t that your Scuba friend from Doylestown?” No Way!  Sure enough, it was and completely unplanned.  This is the same fella we had met up with in Detroit and again at Friar Tucks. We had to chuckle a bit and then laugh at the slim chances that could have happened yet again. DSC_0822 After Mike departed, I pulled the Viking Witch over and filled her tanks, than pulled her over to the main parking area and tied her down.  We’d filled up the cooler with sammiches and waters for the trip home and now we enjoyed lunch and stretched our legs a little bit before jumping back in the plane to continue our trip home.  That leg had lasted 3.6 and covered just under 400 miles.

The weather was showing signs of higher ceilings to the East so I never did call for my next clearance and instead elected to fly the last 2 hours VFR with flight following by the air traffic controllers.  We took off and began a climb up to 7500 feet to take advantage of the 25 knot tailwinds that were up there.  We still had to dodge the clouds and we did so by dancing between, above, and below them (ahem, while still maintaining separation requirements).  It was a smooth and fun ride home.

clouds1 khzyklom

We were almost able to fly directly to Wings but you can see the occasional jaunt to the left to avoid the clouds.  After we contacted the controllers, they requested we climb to 9500 to avoid an arrival corridor so we did and gained another 5 knots of tailwind.  home2 Soon the Philadelphia skyline came into view and a few short minutes later we were on final to runway 24 at Wings.  The cargo area had a full load and I was able to aero-brake like a fighter jet and kept the nose off the ground for 2000 feet down the runway; even got an “attaboy" 0 by a Citation taxiing out for departure. It took us about an hour to unload everything, but we finally did then tied down and covered the Viking Witch and headed home.  All in all, a wonderful trip and I know we’ll go again.  Looking forward to it! 

We met a bunch of really neat folks and hope to see them again too.  As Oshkosh 2010 approaches, we’ll have to start coordinating to meet up at Friar Tucks for a beer.  Last one there buys! 

Ya’ll be safe and call your mama’s and tell ‘em you love ‘em.  Be Particular. 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.


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