The iconic EAA Brown Arch, once the main entrance to the fly-in.
The iconic EAA Brown Arch, once the main entrance to the fly-in.

I mentioned in an earlier article that I drove to Oshkosh, WI this year to attend AirVenture. I had not been to Oshkosh since 1987. That year I flew my previous Swift (N3898K) the EAA Fly-in from Oklahoma where I was teaching AF pilots how to fly the Lockheed C-5. Why this year? I’m not sure. Making the pilgrimage  was just something that I felt it was time to do again. I wasn’t disappointed.

Why did I drive rather than fly?  I did a lot of number crunching. No matter how I got there I would need a room and a way to get around Oshkosh. By the time I made the decision it was too late to get a dorm room or much of anything else so public transportation/University shuttles wouldn’t work. I really didn’t want to have to factor in taxi or Uber transportation at unknown and varying rates. That left flying commercially or flying the Swift and renting a car or driving. Commercial was out of the question considering cost, time to get somewhere close and my desire to never experience commercial flying again. I looked at the cost of flying the Swift with overnight rooms enroute and a rental car while at AirVenture. That was compared to driving my truck and spending 4 more nights enroute (round trip) over those needed for the faster flight. The supply and demand cost of a rental car obtained at the event made flying the Swift a little more expensive than driving. Having my own vehicle there with the ability to easily carry home anything I bought tipped the scale farther to driving. The ideal situation was to tow our 5th Wheel and use it for housing. That would have made the driving decision a hands-down solution. In the end that didn’t work out so I went the hotel method.

For lodging in Oshkosh I investigated AirBnB and found a room in a house a block off Lake Winnebago. It was 10 minutes from the AirVenture front gate (depending upon the time of day you tried to get there), the host was a nice guy and all of the other guests were friendly. Most were also there for AirVenture. The accommodations were totally adequate for a place to shower and crash at night after wandering the AirVenture grounds all day.

How was the event after almost 30 years?  It was the same and it was different. Yes, a lot bigger with much more to take in but very familiar even after so many years. Everything was in pretty much the same place just more of everything. Well, the FlyMarket had been moved but that’s about it. One big and much appreciated change – benches for seating all around the grounds. My legs and feet give a resounding THANK-YOU!

I arrived in Oshkosh the Saturday before AirVenture opened (on Monday) and began wandering the grounds Saturday afternoon, re-familiarizing myself with the layout of the grounds. By Friday I was well into destroying my legs and their ability to take me any distance. Luckily I got most of Friday off from walking. A month or so before AirVenture I had seen something about the Honor Flight from Oshkosh to Washington, DC looking for Viet Nam veterans for the flight so I applied (on the last application day). A few days later I got a notice saying that I had been accepted and would be on the flight. I have to say that it was an excellent experience. I know a lot of veterans my age who are very reluctant to take the trip, I certainly was. All I can say is Give It A Try. You won’t be disappointed and you will feel appreciated for what you went through while serving your country.

I have no idea how many times I made the trek from one end of AirVenture to the other. I know I became really familiar with the tram routes. As I remember there were four, maybe five,  colored routes that span the entire length and breadth of the grounds – as with all AirVenture services, manned with volunteers.

One night I attended the Lifetime Members Dinner at the EAA Museum. An excellent event with a polished and proficient speaker who gave a presentation on the AF Global Hawk UAS program. I also had tickets to the Chapter President’s dinner but it was scheduled for the same night.

I attended the Vintage Division Dinner at the south end of the grounds in the Vintage Cafe and I toured the warbird area on the north end where I found a restored Fairchild C-123K like the one I flew in Viet Nam. I took in a TIG Welding workshop and all three levels of ForeFlight Seminars. I toured (more than once) all four of the large commercial vendor tents and talked to several product reps (and picked up a copy of the 2016 Aeroshell ‘Flying Cow’ poster). I wandered through most of the outdoor vendor areas and sat for a bit in the ‘Drone Zone’ tent watching some races and demo flights.

I spend most of two days in the Pilot Proficiency Center. One day was spent learning how to operate the Redbird and Crosswind simulators and the other was spend flying each of the available scenarios. I had applied to be one of the simulator instructors but was told that they had all the volunteers that they needed. I trained and was available as a fill-in just in case someone failed to make their scheduled period.  I was never called but it was a great opportunity to experience the Redbird training devices and what the Pilot Proficiency Center had to offer.

I spent some time with a friend who volunteers in the warbird judging office. We toured the WWII and Viet Nam reenactment areas and talked with some of the people living there. Of course, we also took in a lot of the beautiful restorations on display. I ran into another friend who had flown in a very unique twin engine plane. He was scheduled to fly an EAA photo shoot the next day and asked if I wanted to come along. I’m no dummy so I was up and at his door at 6 am the next morning. Unfortunately, as he walked up to my truck his phone rang telling him the shoot was cancelled due to weather – low clouds that were not scheduled to dissipate by takeoff time. Bummer.

John Parker and Mike Cummings from American Air Racing here at Reno-Stead were there manning the Reno Air Racing tent. We talked for a while and then went and toured the Lockheed C-5M that had arrived at the show. The M model is the latest iteration of the C-5A and B models that I flew. The M model has newer, bigger engines and a re-designed instrument panel with the latest technology that the AF could procure. (Nowhere near the capabilities they could find in the vendor area but a definite step up from the original configuration). I believe that all of the C-5s are now operated by AF Reserve or Guard units. This plane was from a unit at Travis AFB in CA with a pilot crew of airline pilots serving in the AF Reserve.

By Sunday afternoon most of the vendors were starting to pack up and a significant number of the show planes had left. I spent the afternoon at the EAA Museum taking in the exhibits there. I considered making the trek across the grass runway to Pioneer Airport to go through the hangars there but my legs were just not up to the round trip.

Even spending an entire week at AirVenture you cannot take in all that the event has to offer. I never made it to the seaplane base (though I did see the Martin Mars do water drops during the airshow), missed several seminars that I intended to attend, skipped some workshops I wanted to try and never made it to some of the social events that I had on put my tentative schedule.  And I never made it to a Theater in the Woods presentation. But I did get my t-shirt(s) so I can prove I was there.

Here are some photos (about 70) I took as additional proof… [click on any and get the larger version – back arrow to return]