I was wandering along the runway at Concrete towards the end of the day during the fly in. A Robinson R44 had been doing pleasure flights throughout the day and was landing well up the field from where I spent a lot of my time. I had photographed it as it came over a couple of times but soon lost interest. However, as I wandered along, I happened to be near his landing spot when he came back from another trip. I was far better placed to get a shot or two so I did. However, he spotted me and, instead of following his normal approach routine, he brought the helicopter to a hover in front of me facing at me as they all looked at me while I looked at them. As long as I kept shooting, he didn’t go anywhere so eventually I just lowered the camera and waved. At that point he turned around and landed.
You can’t cover Oshkosh this year without mentioning the Piper Cub. This year was the 75th anniversary of the Piper Cub and they came to the fly-in en masse. There was a mass arrival the weekend before the show started but I didn’t get there in time to witness that. However, the parking had been set up to give the aircraft prominence. They also made an effort to give those aircraft painted in the original Piper yellow parking together to emphasize the effect.
I wandered down to the Cub parking in the evening. I had been hoping that the late evening light would pop out nicely and illuminate the ranks with a warm glow. Sadly,m the light never really cooperated. It always lurked just behind a cloud. However, the lines of Cubs were certainly something to see. It was tricky finding an angle that really showed just how many there were. Just trust me. There were lots of them!
If you are at Oshkosh for a few days and the huge numbers of people and the hot temperatures are getting to you, it is time to take a break. There is no better place to do this than the seaplane base. A short bus ride from the main bus location will take you down to the lake-shore. Here the place of things is a little bit more relaxed. There are plenty of people around still. however, you can sit by the water and allow the pace to slow down quite a bit.
There are many planes already moored up but the traffic in and out always seems to be enough to keep you amused. When the aircraft arrive they will head to the dock and then will be towed out to a mooring location. When they head out it is anyone’s guess what they will consider to be the best departure route so they might power up close in and take off or taxi out a long way before aligning themselves for departure.
We did have a little extra interest with a Beaver that had a hard time getting airborne. A very pretty looking aircraft, it taxied out and made its first effort at getting airborne without success. it then tried several more times in differing directions but I never saw it actually get on to the step. Eventually they taxied back in. No idea what the problem was and how they fixed it but hopefully they did.
Up to now, I have barely mentioned the flying display. Every afternoon, there is a combination of demonstrations by manufacturers and performances by airshow acts. The elements of the show vary during the week with some days being more focused on jets or warbirds and others in lighter aircraft. There is also a night show on the Saturday evening although I had headed home before then so didn’t get to see it.
I did get a pass to the ditch for the flying display on one day. This is an area between the taxiway and the runway which puts you a lot closer to the performers and you obviously don’t have anyone between you and the show – unless Duggy the DC-3 gets parked in an awkward spot of course!
I took a bunch of shots during the display of course – that was why I was in the ditch. I won’t even try to cover it all (and more of them will be included in the GAR coverage). However, here are a few as a taste of what was flying.
A big part of the Airventure experience is the trade stands that are available. There are a lot of plane owners visiting the event and these are people that are known for constantly tinkering with what they have. They are also willing victims for the next thing in their aviation collection.
Consequently, every level of need is catered for. There are stands selling everything you could possibly want from someone who will embroider your plane’s registration on to a baseball cap or shirt through to someone selling you a business jet. Having a walk through the manufacturers’ stands is a good way to spend some time. A really good time to do this is during the flying display. This is a time when many people are off watching the flying and you can get a bit more space.
Cockpits are often powered up in the aircraft. Having a look at the interiors is a also a good idea. Some of the newer designs are vying for the attention of the visitors so might have stands that are more fancy. The less well established manufacturers are also more likely to make an effort to show you their wares. It is interesting to hear from them what their expectations are for the week. Some will sell many aircraft. Others won’t sell anything but may make that first contact with someone who will ultimately prove to be a customer. One thing is for sure, it is a greater concentration of aircraft owners than you will find pretty much anywhere else!
This piece is a shorter one but it summarizes a lot about what Oshkosh is like. I was walking around the show site on my first day there when I came across the Rutan Boomerang. This aircraft is now in private hands but was restored as part of the Rutan celebrations the year before. It is an unusual asymmetric configuration aircraft that looks very interesting. It had actually been in the race ahead of Airventure.
I wandered up and grabbed a couple of shots as the owner was chatting to a few people. He immediately asked me if I would like to get some interior shots. I was wearing a media badge but this was certainly not something I excepted and I was very grateful. He then cleared out his stuff, tidied everything up and even asked how I wanted the hatches configured. What a great guy.
One group that always gets a lot of attention at Oshkosh is the warbirds. A separate area is set aside for them where the aircraft can park but also where their people can camp. It seems to be a well developed operation with its own marshaling and security arrangements. I guess when the aircraft are valuable and in demand, they need a little extra attention.
Despite that, it is still a very relaxed area to visit. The aircraft are parked up and you can walk freely in amongst them. Often people are working on the planes and they fly quite frequently during the days (and more often the evenings when photo flights are common). As they taxi in and out, the volunteers keep you just safely out of harms way but they are aware that everyone wants to get a picture. A good balance exists.
The best time to visit is either early in the morning or late in the evening. Not only is the light better then, the number of visitors is much lower so you can have a lot of time to yourself and people are not in your shots most of the time. It is worth making repeated visits. My first trip across had a few aircraft around but it was noticeable how many spaces there were. however, a couple of days later, the ranks of vintage aircraft had swelled and there was much to see that was new.
One of the great things about exploring at Oshkosh is seeing how people are staying there. There are plenty of organized camping options for people. However, that is not very unusual. What is interesting and something that is very symbolic of Oshkosh is the camping in the aircraft parking. Many people set up camp right under the wing of their aircraft.
As part of the piece, I wanted to make sure that I had covered this aspect to some level. I spent a good bit of time wandering through the parked aircraft. It was fascinating to see just how diverse the approaches taken were. I met one guy who was sitting under the wing of his Cessna 172 with a one man tent pinned to the ground next to him. He symbolized the simplest version of things. Sadly, he didn’t want me to take his picture but it was a great thing to see.
At the other end of the scale, some pretty significant camping enclosures had erupted! Large tents, canopies with cooking arrangements, seating for many people plus transportation options to get around the site were also on display. Sometimes these were next to a more substantial aircraft but other times it just looked like friends had brought all they needed between them.
The facilities for people are pretty well developed too. Large shower and toilet blocks are available which seem pretty obvious. I was taken by the charging stations that seemed pretty substantial. Whether you are charging battery packs, phones, laptops or avionics, this seems to be a big deal and I guess this has all evolved over the years as the needs of Oshkosh visitors have grown. Quite something to see in itself.
Here we go with a short post for today. EAA’s annual extravaganza that is Airventure (or Oshkosh to pretty much everyone else) has recently concluded. I was there for GAR for a few of the days. Oshkosh is a great experience and one that any aviation nut should try and do at least once.
There is way too much going on at Oshkosh to make a single blog posting out of it. Instead, you will be getting bits and pieces drip fed over the coming posts. My coverage of it for GAR also has to go out so I won’t be duplicating anything from there (well, not much anyway). However, hopefully this will give you a few views of Airventure from my perspective.
Up front, I must say thanks to all of the friends I already have that I met there as well as the new ones I made. Oshkosh is certainly something at which you can wander off for hours at a time to experience what is happening. However, it is nice to be able to know you can expect someone to be around when you come back so you can share what you have been up to and talk rubbish about planes for ages. Thanks everyone.