Friday, August 01, 2008

Oshkosh Day One

Three different friends finally persuading me to come to Oshkosh. We took an airline flight to Appleton, and as soon as we came off the runway we could tell something was up. We crossed a taxiway to reach the apron, and the whole length of it had little general aviation airplanes, one-seaters up to maybe King Air-sized, angle parked either side of the taxiway. They run a shuttle from here for the people who opt not to fly into the zoo that is Oshkosh, and apparently so many people take advantage of it that Appleton turns into a satellite zoo. Another satellite zoo is Fond du Lac, a few miles away from Oshkosh. The Oshkosh airport, Whitman Field, is now full for airplane parking, so overflow traffic has to stay at Fond du Lac and shuttle in.

We don't have to worry about car parking because a friend has finagled a campsite for us, right across from a side entrance to the show. We've arrived before them, but find our assigned site and my companion and I pitch a small tent and go in for a first look at the show.

The show is vast. I have lived in smaller towns. It's a trade show, but much of what is traded is stories. We register for the Women in Aviation breakfast and the International pilots dinner. Along the way we chat with all kinds of people. Then we head out to see this afternoon's air show. There are Pitts Specials doing high G aerobatics and head to head passes, leaving heart-shaped and loop-shaped smoke trails, then doing a high speed flyby canopy to canopy with one inverted. There was a F-22 Raptor that made screaming ascents, accelerating vertically into the clouds and shaking the air at a level beyond sound as the lighted afterburners turn towards me. I have my earplugs in for this part of the show. At the end of the Raptor's act, it does some formation flying with a P-51 Mustang. But the highlight for me was a Beech 18 piloted by Matt Younkin. It's not an aerobatic airplane, certified like the Pitts to +10 Gs. It's an older twin transport airplane intended for flying in straight lines between airports. The mastery involved in this act is not to show off the engineering or the human stamina that allows sustaining high G loads, but to make the act interesting (and it is) without infringing on any of the limits of the aircraft. The words of the blurb were something akin to "the aircraft doesn't know it is doing aerobatics." Somehow that fits in with my whole philosophy, and I really enjoyed watching the old plane do things it didn't know it was doing, and that its designers never expected it to do.

Back at the campsite, I discover that my friends have arrived and pitched their tent. It is big enough for our tent to be pitched inside it. They have a queen-sized bed inside. And enough room left over for a ballroom dancing competition. They drove, so their luggage didn't have to fit within airline checked baggage limits.

I would write more, but I don't type well in the dark and I'm being bitten by mosquitoes.

And it turns out that as this is the first year Oshkosh has had wireless, they underestimated the demand, and the servers have crashed from the onslaught. I'm lining up next morning at the EAA tent, waiting for amateur photoblogger and pilot Piperwarrior to finish his blog so I can post. Further updates, when I can.


Anonymous said...

One word:


Anonymous said...

Hope you're having a great time.

Just listening to live KOSH ATC over the internet is amazing. I suppose it's 10X cooler being there. I haven't been, yet.

I was listening to arrivals on 36L and 36R, that is, runway 36 and the parallel taxiway the other day. The way the controllers work the a/c makes it almost sound like a fast-paced auction. "Red Cessna, taxi fast to the end, I've got a B-24 behind you","blue taildragger, exit the runway...NOW", etc.

At one point they turned the frequency over to a mobile unit who apparently assisted talking a U-2 down on approach. I suppose they're hard to see out of (ironic, given surveillance function).

I was listening to takeoffs on 27 today. Three aircraft at a on left, one on the right, one in the center of the runway. Very cool! Left, you go, 2,3, right you go,2,3,4,5...okay, center now you go! Next 3, step up quick!

You can tell the controllers love the action (and I know it's a competitive bid to be there). The entire time I listened, even though it was hot and heavy, the controllers were friendly and professional. ("Welcome to the show", "thanks for coming", etc.)

Very impressive!

Bob in Minnesota

Anonymous said...

So where were you in the picture? I can actually pick myself out only because it was too hot for me to put a pink tee over my green tee. Back right hand side.