A visit to Oshkosh

"Oshkosh."  It's a nice city on Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin.  To aviation enthusiasts, it's both the location and the short name for EAA Airventure Oshkosh, an absolutely enormous annual event appropriately titled "The World's greatest aviation celebration."  It's put on by the Experimental Aircraft Association, which has been holding it for more than 50 years.

More than half a million attendees swarm onto this midwest city for a week of just about all things aviation.  During this time, the tower at Wittman Regional (OSH) becomes the world's busiest control tower, as thousands of planes, from small to very very large, converge onto the facility. 

Dad and I decided to go for 3 days, so here's what we saw.  There's no way I could cover everything, so these are highlights.

Hundreds of vendors are there selling everything from avionics equipment, to things only tangentially related to aviation (like as-seen-on-tv shammys), to aircraft that can fit into a trailer.

This Sherpa can take off in just over 100 feet and has the huge bush tires to land almost anywhere:

Of course, being able to land anywhere is even better if you can land on water.

And if you can land on water, two engines must be twice as good...

Before Oshkosh there was good press about the airplane that's also a car.  We saw it.  (They didn't let us drive it)

This is something we hadn't seen, a "motor-glider", a glider aircraft with an engine.  It has the very long wingspan typical of a glider, but the engine means you don't need a tow plane.  It's a compromise design, but very neat. 

The owner of this Cessna is working on a flight to both of Earth's poles.  Called the "Polar Pumpkin", he's already been to the South Pole, Polar Flight 90 will soon take him to the North Pole.

Lots of people come and camp on the airport grounds, in tents under their planes, or in a dedicated campground. At night they have movies in a dedicated outdoor theater, and they also have musical performances on this large temporary stage. The Doobie Brothers were performing here this night.

There are a lot of "warbirds", this is the sole flyable Lancaster Bomber, which taxied right up to us while we were standing there. 

We saw all these small planes lying nose-down on the ground, and none appeared to have nose wheels. Did some thief steal them all during the night?  No, apparently the Burt Rutan-designed Long EZ has a retractable nose gear so it can park nose-down, which is a safer position in case of a gust of wind.

Speaking of Burt Rutan, while we were exploring the EAA Museum (just off the airport grounds), we heard someone was giving a talk, and it turned out to be Burt talking about the new commercial spacecraft under construction for Virgin Galactic.

White Knight Two flew into Oshkosh while we were there. This vehicle, called "Eve", will carry the spacecraft up to a high altitude and then launch it into space.  

Another interesting aircraft being shown off was the Sikorsky-built Erickson Aircrane, which was converted into firefighting support.

The DC-3 still flies, I'd say more than a dozen were there. 

This one was owned by the FAA and was used to test instrument approaches.

The Predator unmanned vehicle was brought in.  It was flown remotely from one of the Dakotas until it reached 30 miles away, when control transferred to local operators, who controlled it from a truck parked behind.

The P-40 Warhawk was well represented.

As was the P-38 Lightning.

Less-nimble military trainers were brought in,

As were the T-6's, called  Texans, also called the "Harvard".

The flight line had so many planes, it took us a full day to just walk through the area, and we did not really do it justice.

In the afternoon there were flyovers of flights of same-type aircraft.

On Tuesday the Airbus A380 test aircraft flew in.  What an enormous plane!

They had tours but on our last day we didn't feel like standing in line for 2 hours.  So we got some pictures instead.

The test pilot who flew it in had flown in a different plane about 20 years earlier, which was transported on the A380.  Here they were unboxing it, the world's smallest twin-engine airplane.  I think it had 22 hp.

Not everything on the grounds flew. This monster snow blower is made in Oshkosh (but not used at the airport).

Everywhere you looked, something special was flying in.

Here Dad is posing with a plane of similar vintage.

We drove up from Chicago on Sunday and did a first drive around the airport on our way up to Appleton, to get the lay of the land.  It greatly helped our orientation on Monday, the first day of the show.  We spent three days in total there, and thought that was a good amount of time for our first visit.  We only attended one talk, by an SR-71 Blackbird pilot, which was fascinating.  We would definitely go back, and if we spent more time we'd go to more talks.

There was so much more at Oshkosh than I've shown here.  Presentations by neighboring countries on the procedures to fly there, people who offer flying vacations, workshops on the skills needed to build planes, and nightly aerobatic airshows. 

For such a large event, I thought everything was really well organized. The only serious traffic we hit was on Monday when thunderstorms came through in the mid-afternoon, which cancelled the airshow, and so a lot of people left at the same time, so it took us 30 minutes to get to the highway.  The other days we did not experience more than a few minute wait.  The only negative I had was the food service.  While you can bring food in, we chose to buy food on site, and it seemed the caterers were not really organized.  There was a lot of confusion about which line served what food, and they seemed to walk around a lot behind the counter.  And it was pretty pricey.  At least it was generally decent food once you got it.  That's my only negative comment.

We walked the whole facility, saw so much, and got so much out of it.  It's an amazing experience that everyone should go to at least once.  I'll be back.