On the third day we went out to the seaplane base where there was a field for amphib parking and then a couple rows of float planes anchored in a little lagoon. I expected there to be more but some had already left and the price of fuel kept some away. We watched a few aircraft taking off and landing on the water. It was fairly windy and the choppy waves made it challenging for the airplanes to get on the step, where drag with the floats in the water is reduced sufficiently to accelerate to flying speed. It's an opportunity for the watching pilots to stand around and authoritatively tell each other what the pilot who is trying to take off is doing wrong. This sort of thing is a mainstay of aviation.
The Oshkosh event is officially the EAA Airventure, that is the annual convention of the Experimental Aircraft Association. The Experimental there refers not so much to Boeing testing the first B787, but to the MacGyver spirit that caused the Wright Brothers and hundreds of other inventor pilots to put things together in their backyards and basements. The classic ultralight airplane in my mind is made entirely out of things that you could find in a garden shed. It is powered by an engine from a lawnmower or a weedwhacker. You sit in a lawnchair. The propeller is possibly the trickiest thing to homebuild. There's a company called Warp Speed that seems to make most ultralight propellers. I was disappointed by the low number of true ultralights on display at the show. My friend, who used to be a dealer for light sport planes, theorized that the light sport plane has killed the ultralight. An ultralight dealer I know said that the EAA killed the ultralight, via their lobbying for the the LSA category. Because any homebuilt bigger than the tiniest ultralight now has to be inspected and approved by the FAA, the true whacko libertarians aren't building airplanes anymore.
Anywhere you go, you can certainly find plenty of rugged individuals with theories that "they" say make no sense. But at Oshkosh the individual is standing next to a Piper Cherokee that has painted on the door the list of speed competitions it had won for its category.
Or perhaps the ultralight is alive and well, but Oshkosh is no longer a hospitable environment for them. The Fly Market was originally a buy and sell are of new and used airplane parts, or chunks of airplanes (or entire airplanes cut in half with a skill saw--to relieve the original builder of any liability from someone attempting to fly an airplane sold for scrap). Now it still has some of that spirit, but there's a lot of trinkets and cookware and the other things you see at standard flea markets.
I have pictures now, but blogger tells me they cannot be uploaded due to an internal server error, so they will have to wait.