Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Oshkosh Wrap Up

Oshkosh was a lot of different things. For the price of admission you could get your money's worth in many ways, each of which ignored the bulk of the event. And you really have to choose your own Airventure, or you get overwhelmed by all of it and feel frustrated.

Every day included an airshow of a calibre that on its own might elsewhere command the entire daily admission price. There was a helicopter that rolled upside-down and back right side up again: the latter half of the stunt was recently considered impossible. There were modern military aircraft, vintage warbirds (military aircraft over 50 years old become "warbirds" instead of war planes, not sure why), aerobatic stunt planes, trick flying, airborne pyrotechnics and a stunt that had its own t-shirt for sale, the Wall of Fire.

You could spend most of a week just walking the flight lines. Some of the airplanes are there just because that's how the owners got there, and some are also there on display to compete for prizes, or maybe just recognition. You know how at a typical GA airport you can walk down the flight lines and see a lot of Cessnas and Pipers and a handful of RVs, maybe a Sea Bee or a Taylorcraft and a few more, "Hey, do you know what this is?" airplanes. Well at Oshkosh it doesn't seem to matter what you fly in, there's a whole row, or even a whole field of them. I don't think I'd ever seen a C195 before. Here they had their own section. And I'm told that numbers were down, and that many had already left. The only airplane in the parking section I noticed that was the only representative of its type was a South African registered DC-3. Not the same one I saw in the north, but probably owned by the De Beers Company, too.

All the major GA manufacturers were there, showing off their line of aircraft, and I'm sure making serious sales. I walked by a Mooney that I was no way going to buy, but I was curious about a really irritating looking rear cargo hatch. It was located such that you would have to lift bags to chest height to get them over the lip of the cargo hold, and then drop them in. The opening itself wasn't big enough to admit the 50 lb suitcase that I normally carry for work. And I'd rather load cargo at floor level. I asked if it needed to be located there for structural strength or something. The salesman said yes about the need for a small, carefully positioned door for strength, and described the gunmetal--he was not talking about colour--roll cage of the airplane. He told me it smelled like a gun barrel, and emphasized that there has never been an inflight breakup of a Mooney. And then he argued for the top opening so you could stack cases one on top the other without having to "upload." I was skeptical about how high you were going to stack things in a cargo hold that only holds 120 lbs. I pointed out that I weighed more than that, and the top of me would be well below the lip if I curled up in the bottom. He seemed to think that the typical item loaded in a Mooney is less dense than an Aviatrix. I guess Mooney loads are all chips and no pop.

There was a whole section of classrooms for seminars, on topics including building with composites, test flying your ultralight, and aviation in China. At any one time there were perhaps ten or even twenty different seminars to go to. You could easily spend the whole show attending related seminars, and treating the event like a course in building an ultralight.

One thing that was noticeable was that anyone who was anyone was there. For example if I think of US flight instruction products, I think of a series of books and videos from Rod Machado and another from the Kings, a couple who between them hold every possible aviation licence. I'd expect to see their books for sale at the show, and then when I grasped the everyone who is anyone nature of Oshkosh I realized that they were there. You don't send your second string to Oshkosh. The people there were the owners and the CEOs of the companies. I was chatting with someone at an FAA booth about a video they were giving away and he used the first person with respect to the production. He had produced the video. I'll tell you about it when I get a chance to see it.

Over all, there were too many details to take in, too much to see and too much information. Trying to get a handle on it all, I found myself looking at the infrastructure supporting it all. And that was praiseworthy. There were a lot of people there, but there were not waits for washrooms, and they were reasonably clean, considering that they were portables. There were enough and large enough garbage containers with regular pickup. There was free and simple transportation not only between the venues, but from the show to the mall, the museum, the campgrounds and other places people might want to go. The parking was well organized, with armies of people in reflective vests marshalling both the winged and the automotive traffic into wel organized parking areas. You could see features that were probably there to rectify problems from previous years, such as the person with a microphone who perched on the back of each tram to tell the tractr driver at the front when it was safe to pull out. This was the first year they had internet, and I suspect that next yeat they will have servers that can better handle the load.

I have more to write about the show, but I'm now back at work with my brochures and goodies all packed away at home, so I'll get back to them at some theoretical future time when I have nothing else to write about. I hope everyone else who went had a good time and I welcome your comments about what you saw and liked.


aluwings said...

Oshkosh certainly is the aviator's Mecca. I went there several years back, before choosing a home-built kit, and discovered that half of them I couldn't even sit in because the cockpits are so small. Funny how that doesn't show up in the brochure next to the reason that they claim a top speed of 160 kts. on 80 horse power!! Now I knoooowww..

Oshkosh is awesome also for meeting first hand the real folks behind the products and flashy magazine ads. Like John and Martha King - they really are that nice! And Jim Bede - he really is that creative! Too bad more of his imaginings couldn't make it to 'air' ... and Chris Heintz - he really is that clever about making airplanes easy to build! And Rod Machado really IS that funny!

Maybe I'm due for another visit ... next year?

Mike said...

4 posts on Oshkosh, and you have yet to mention the flying car! :)

Andy said...

I've been pining for photos... forget the flying car! 4 posts on Oshkosh, and no pics. :(

ea757grrl said...

For someone like me who lives in sort of an aviation black hole, who has a non-flying job, and spends 98% of her time around folks who aren't pilots, Oshkosh is always a wonderful experience. Just being around thousands of people who "get it" makes it all worthwhile (and as a woman pilot, this year was special for me too).

The "well, you don't get to see that stuff every day!" makes it worthwhile too. Even as jaded as I get about the modern military stuff, there's something still downright moving about seeing an F-22 flying in formation with a P-38 and a P-51.

Oshkosh does wonders at restoring my awe and wonder about aviation, and I always come back with my love for it restored and with lots of inspiration and new ideas. It's something that everybody who loves airplanes needs to do at least once. I hope to do it again, real soon. It's sure been good for me.

Aviatrix said...

The flying car I am saving for its very own post when I can sit down with the brochure and working internet and talk about it properly.

I tried to upload pictures but blogger refused them.

I stuffed all my Oshkosh brochures and give aways in the box with my camping stuff, sent that home, and went straight back to work.

I'll have to catch up later.

steve said...

" guess Mooney loads are all chips and no pop."
Well, 'Trix, I guess that you've come a long way,since those days in the frozen north, eh?

Envious of the wonderful time you had there.....perhaps I'll win the lottery and be able to afford the vintage auto event at Hershey and Oshkosh as well.(always assuming the Dept. of homeland security would even let me in to spend my cash.)