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!

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