Friday, August 5, 2016

Light Sport AirVenture

Monday 7/25: We taxied over to the fuel station at Fon du Lac and shut her down. We both took a deep breath and smiled at each other. That was quite an entry. We gathered our wits and planned our next move. First we called EAA to find out if tent camping was still available (General Aviation Camping was closed). We were assured we could camp there. A shuttle was available to take us from KFLD to KOSH. Parking on the grass was available at KFLD, so we moved Sally over to the field and tied her down. We had planned to camp under Sally's wing but now with the change of plans we had to remove any gear we might need while camping at Oshkosh. Fortunately we travel light.

We took the last two seats on the next shuttle, Nate sitting way in the back of the bus, I sat next to a pilot who just flew his Mooney in from Connecticut with two teenage daughters. He was still wound up about his entry into KFLD.  I started to tell my story but he was just two excited to listen.

My First
We checked in at the ticket counter and bought tickets (wrist bands) through Wednesday. Nate was surprised to find that I was already an EAA member. This would save us a lot of money throughout the week. They were not able to provide camping passes, so that would be a long walk (first of many) to another building. Camping passes are purchased by the week and if you leave early the unused days are refunded. Now that we were assured of a spot it was time to see the show. This time we took the shuttle bus.

Our agenda was as simple as A,B,C,D. Those are the hangars that hold the aviation vendors. We were methodical and diligent. We both had things we wanted to see, but nothing we wanted to buy. This was a reconnaissance mission. (BTW, you get what you pay for. We saw many pieces of gear that you might expect to use for an emergency back up situation that really weren't manufactured or tested with any safety standards. Beware.) About 3:00pm my cell phone died. While disappointed that I wouldn't be taking pictures, I would not miss the daily news. It was...liberating. Nate still had his phone in case of any emergency. We visited a few more vendors (including US Sport Aircraft and the Airbus E-FAN)) before calling it a day.

Camp "Dads"
Nate had ordered camping gear from Target. We took another long walk over to the store to pick up the gear, then had Uber take us back to camp grounds. After some quick checking in the dark, our site was selected behind some Port-a-potties near a Dumpster. (No, it was a GREAT spot! You can really appreciate the convenience as you get older.) Tent, sleeping bags, air mattresses w/battery powered pump, pillows, ...but we would still be roughing it - no pillow cases! Putting up camp in the dark is never easy, but Nate handled it very well. We put our heads down about 11:30 pm and slept VERY well.

Tuesday 7/26: Priorities were 1. Airplanes, 2. Food, 3. Rest.

I woke up around 7:30am to the sound of rotor blades flying overhead. Next the unmistakable sound of a Merlin engine. We were just a few steps from the bus stop and near the beginning of the route which meant we could sit down for our ride to the show. After some coffee and an egg sandwich we headed over to Boeing Plaza (stopping to look and our favorite vendor displays along the way). We spent time with the B17, then spent time talking with the P3AEW&C Plane Commander about his current duties and operations. He had a great story about flying this 4 engine plane into a VFR traffic pattern with homebuilts. We looked at all the planes in the plaza and asked questions about each one. Did you know that Air Force F15s have tail hooks?

I found a shady table as Nate stood in line for food. Two guys asked to join me and of course I welcomed them. Both family doctors and AMEs from Wichita, they had flown into Green Bay in their C210 and drove a rental car in every day, about 45 minutes from their hotel. We discussed the changes to the Third Class Medical and their experiences giving pilots exams. They are uncertain that the pilot population can self regulate. It was a great discussion.

We made many, many more stops but one in particular was the EAA Pilot Proficiency Center. With mobile Apps to send alerts about significant weather, why can't incoming pilots be alerted when Oshkosh parking is full? How does someone make a reservation? The unsatisfying response: "The grounds are actually open weeks in advance. You should come earlier."

It was time to head to the beer tent. We found some seats at the end of a table so I claimed our spot as he went for beer. It felt really good to sit down. Across from me sat a guy wearing a light blue Air Force cap with "scrambled eggs" on the brim. I asked what he flew and the immediate response was an RV7. We talked about General Aviation for a bit before I pressed him on what he flew in the Air Force. "Oh, MQ9s." Wow! So when Nate came back I told him to chat with this guy because he flies drones. (Air Force prefers Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, BTW.) When Nate learned the truth the poor man couldn't eat his meal as he answered all of our questions. Just fantastic, only at Oshkosh. Next we walked over to Pioneer Field to watch the RC planes do their thing. We were both impressed.

We walked back to the camp grounds and stopped at the Country Store. I looked up and saw a two plane formation, F4U in trail of a P51. We sat at the picnic table drinking a gallon jug of ice water and a few beers. We talked about all things aviation and nothing about real world troubles. Then a short walk to "Camp Dads" for another sound sleep.

Wednesday 7/27: Nate donated the camp gear to a church group camping just behind us. After another bus ride in, we stopped for the traditional coffee and donuts. Then signed up for a simulator ride at the EAA Pilot Center. During the hour or so wait we checked out the Bose booth, a few more LSA displays and watched airplanes of all types making low passes down the runway. The simulator instructors were a bit overwhelmed, so while it was interesting, the event didn't live up to its potential. A few more stops before we exited the main gate and looked for the shuttle back to Fon du Lac.

Wrap Up: Flying Magazine
"EAA CEO and Chairman Jack Pelton agrees. With more than 14,300 aircraft movements, 553,000 visitors and a boisterous mood among visitors and thousands of EAA volunteers, Pelton called AirVenture 2016 an “unbelievably successful” event."
Plane and Pilot
"From our point of view, there were, scientifically speaking, a boatload of planes at Wittman Field, with parking filling up by the first day of the show, Monday, and staying very full even through the usual getaway days of Thursday and Friday and through the penultimate day, Saturday, as well.

Opinion: I was asked what I liked most about the show? The airplanes are great. The technology is truly amazing. The size and scope of this event is incomprehensible. An uneducated guess would be that I saw about 33% of the event. Definitely worth another trip. But the most impressive part of the show is the people. We had wonderful conversations with very interesting people. Pilots are just great people to be around.

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