Archive for July 2006

Journey to KOSH

July 30, 2006

I’ve just returned from my first visit to Airventure, better known as OshKosh, or KOSH. It was a really spectacular journey for me. OshKosh was everything that i thought it would be, and (of course) more. I’ve been a pilot for the past 8 years or so, but it’s been in my family for a long time. Even as a very little kid, i recall looking up in wonder at the big jets that passed by our house (i was lucky to live on the JFK approach for a short while). Aviation was always somewhere inside of me, but growing up I never had both the time and the money to pursue this dream. That changed in the mid-late ’90s, as I moved close to an airport, could finally afford the lessons, and didn’t (yet) have much in the way of family commitments. I got hooked, and i love it.

It’s been a real dream to to participate in such a magical activity, and for some odd reason, the pilgrimage to Oshkosh captured much of the romance and joy of aviation. For starters, the show was everyone and everthing related to aviation, times a thousand, and then for a week. I literally woke up each morning to the sound of either whining L39 jets or the low hum and earthshaking vibration of DC3 props on takoff. Days were filled walking the “trade show” component of the event, where every manufacturer of every product ever thought of for aviation was in attendance. Everyone was chatty. Want to know why the Bonanza wing was changed? Head over to Beech or ABS and ask. Curious about the right CHTs for a 520UB? Ask the guys who make it over at the ten in Aeroshell square. Everyone is there. For every minute of every day last week, everywhere you looked you saw some sort of airplane. Big, small, fast, slow, pretty, and yes, some even ugly. Everyday there was an airshow. Everyday some insanely loud military jet would do several full afterburner flybys. Everyday something new, and cool, would make a surprise landing: HondaJet, D-Jet, Cessna NG. And the people, ahhh the people: everyone there loves aviation . Everyone I met acted like a kid in a candystore. We were all 700,000 of us on cloud nine at the same time. People were there from all parts of the world and from all walks of life, and yet we all shared a very powerful, common bond: we love flying. For some reason, when we get aloft, the world looks right. For some of us, living with the knowledge that we can be anywhere tomorrow makes our today very special.

This was my first year at KOSH, and the journey to the event was fantastic. I left KPAO on saturday after a leisurlely morning with the family. I never “stress the flight”, and in this case time with the family was a priority. Weather was good all weekend, and i figured I’d make it in time. I flew to KJAC to pick up my step-father, long the source of aviation friendship, encouragement, and inspiration for me. The PAO-JAC flight is my “milk run” and i know the route well. It is very soothing for me (once past RNO, anyway). This flight was no exception, except without my kids in the back I was able to fly high and fast (13,5, 175TAS – fast for a B36TC). We met up on the ramp in Jackson, loaded the Bo’ to the gills with camping gear and provisions and and headed east, luckily with many knots of tailwind pushing us along.

The afternoon flight was spectacular: Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore, Badlands, grassy plains of the western mid-west started appearing as the sun got gold on the horizon. After four hours in the saddle, we made a smooth approach and landing into Sioux Falls, SD. As i was on short final I looked at the ramp and saw the blue angels parked immediately to the right of the threshold . . .this was no normal approach. The ‘Angels had appeared in Sioux Falls that day for an airshow. We taxied up next to a beautiful Mirage and an equally special very old Gruman Tiger. They both showed the love of their owners.

We scrounged a very random hotel room at a rowdy hotel in FSD (you gotta love the adventure of it all) and called it a night. An incredibly friendly security guard hooked us up with a turkey club sandwich for dinner after all the restaurants had closed. Once again, good people made this trip great. 8 hrs of stick time for me made for a great night sleep.

We woke at 5am the the next day to get into KOSH ahead of the traffic. The 2 hrs into OSH were a beautiful morning ride. As Bob and I listened to CNN (thank you XM and 396) and surveyed the countryside below us, we giggled to ourselves at the great fortune we shared to see the world wake up like this. All the while the Bo’ purred like a kitten. It seemed everyone was happy.

We made the VFR approach to Ripon/Fiske. This is a bit stressful. I’m used to high traffic areas (ie SFO), but normally pilots use transponders. The rule within 30 miles of OSH is no transponders. This meant that my traffic system wouldn’t work. This meant that my traffic system wouldn’t work when i was entering the most dense airspace on the planet. Time to sit upright in the left seat. . . Despite this stress, I had always read about this famous approach, and it really did make my spine tingle when the controller finally said, “Bonanza 3 south of Fiske, rock your wings.” It was pretty neat. Sadly, the fun ended there, because as we were about to pass FISKE, the airport closed due to an accident on the runway. It happened suddenly, and there was extreme stress in the voice of the controller. All controllers warned of a “lengthy delay” and encouraged pilots to, “check fuel status.” All of this is and was bad. . . Details remain sketchy, but rumor has it that a homebuild stalled in with bad outcome. It is very, very sad. We live in a world of risk and aviation has many. But this was a sad turn of events.

We held outside of Fiske for approx 45 mins and were then cleared into 36L. Landing was a breeze. We taxied to the North 40 GA parking and found ourselves a home for the week. We were camping planeside, and though I was really excited for this, i didnt know how it worked or what to expect. I was overwhelmed with the friendliness and helpfulness of the 3 greeters that met us and helped us setup our plane. In general, the friendliness of the folks from OSH really astounded me. This would be a recurring theme for the week. Have i been living on the hustle/bustle of suburbia too long? I think so, after this week.

We setup next to Don and Kelly, another Father/son duo who had flown their vintage C172 all the way in from Calgary. We all made camp and helped each other get situated. We were there on Sunday, one day before the show opened. Sunday was a great day for us to get ready, register, setup, get our bearing.

10 hours from the west coast and the week’s journey had only just begun . . . More to come on various impressions from the week. . . .