EAA AirVenture 2019 Stories
For those who don’t know, the small town of Oshkosh, Wisconsin becomes one of the busiest aviation venues in the world each year for a period just a little more than a week. According to the statistics from EAA’s 2019 summary, the AirVenture this summer hosted more than 642,000 visitors and more than 10,000 aircraft! At Wittman Regional Airport, the amazing team of air traffic controllers and event staff coordinated around 127 takeoffs and landings per hour!
The week-long event featured aerobatic shows, military aircraft formation flights, and countless exhibitions and booths set up all over the airport for guests to enjoy. What makes the event even more exciting is that over two thirds of the planes that fly in are flown in by personal owners and pilots, not commercial organizations for the show. Many of the pilots and friends that fly in to be a part of the experience also get to set up tents and camp with their aircraft for the duration of their stay. Anyone who has attended an Oshkosh AirVenture before will be sure to tell you how impressive it is seeing so many airplanes in one place together!
The Michigan Flyers Club was well-represented this year, with 5 of our club’s airplanes making the hop across (or around) the lake to attend the EAA AirVenture 2019. Below are personal accounts and pictures from a few of the members that got the chance to visit this year!
Heather and I left for our first trip to Oshkosh on Saturday morning in 120WE. We were lucky enough to get an IFR reservation since storms were expected enroute and low ceilings were forecast for OSH. Our departure was delayed about 20 minutes (prop turning) while we negotiated clearances with ATC and loaded the KLN GPS and iPad. The flight was uneventful with about a third of the time in the clouds. While we missed out on the Ripon arrival process, it was pretty cool to break out just past the final fix over the lake only to have a TBM Avenger show up unannounced 150 yards off our left wing!
We landed just ahead of the first planned mass arrival (Cherokees) and the unplanned thunderstorms. Fortunately, we had about 40 minutes to get the plane staked and tied down and the tent up before the storms arrived. Cell after cell brought a total of 5 inches of rain – crazy! Oshkosh became a soggy mud hole for the next day or so. The airport closed. The campgrounds all closed. It was very quiet and muddy, but there were airplanes everywhere. It was great to be there. Sunday dawned with brilliant sunshine and a promise of a grand adventure. We were driven around the grounds by several knowledgeable volunteers in golf carts who helped get us oriented and overwhelmed at the same time. Unbelievable. We attended classes and seminars every day starting at 0730 on Monday and continuing through the daily air show. We watched a STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) contest, learned about different airplanes, met with several ATC employees and ventured off site (Lyft) for dinner every night.
The flying started at 0700 every morning and never stopped - warbirds, helicopters, GA arrivals and departures, jets, skywriters, aero stunts and skydivers with sparklers every night! Merlins, Wright and Pratt radials, Allisons, Lycoming and Continentals all day every day! The Wednesday night air show (in the dark) was beyond our imagination. We reluctantly left OSH at noon on Thursday but not before putting in our reservation to go back next summer!
I went with Alex Arts and Wayne Powell. You can see photos of my Foreflight. It was kind of entertaining what it all looked like. As we were coming in about 10:30 Wednesday, there was a big crowd of planes ATC had circling Green Lake. We arrived as they lined up and headed in and we got to back of the line.
We came over Ripon looking good all in line as you can see. Were told to land on Runway 27 with a right traffic pattern; all looked good until as we made our turn a Vans airplane came in off the lake pretty close to us. We were waved off and told to climb about ½ way down the runway to reenter the pattern and try again. The second attempt was better, and we landed over another plane aiming for the spot behind ours, before quickly taxiing off.
It was a long taxi to our parking spot way south of the airport, close to where 572RJ was parked! We were in a Bonanza V35 B I think.
In October 2018 a friend asked if we wanted to go to Oshkosh 2019. He was going to rent a vintage plane somewhere in the US and fly in. Did we want to join? Long story short - yes, we did! Preparations began: Reserving 1377S, looking at options for how to fly there, watching tons of Fisk arrival videos on YouTube, asking why avionics are so heavy on 77S, and so on. It seemed like another more experienced set of eyes would be good to have on the plane. Alex Nevin was interested, but he decided to go to Beijing instead. Instead, Sam Terray came along, and he is welcome to join any other trip! Alex, what’s your vote? Which trip is more exciting?
The day of our departure came along and the weather didn’t look too great. Some lines of thunderstorms flanked the southern end of Lake Michigan, and we decided to take the northern route instead. A few stops and adjustments later (be flexible and know your options!) we joined the numerous other planes for the Fisk arrival.
We flew at 90kts and 1,800 ft, half a mile in trail of the next plane. Countless more aircraft were squeezing into the line just like we did. It was nothing outrageous, thankfully, but it was certainly good to have three pairs of eyes watching for traffic all around us. It was certainly a moment we appreciated ADSB and the avionics on board! We were happy to have the extra base weight. Then with the instructions "rock your wings" and "land on the dot” we arrived at #OSH19.
A few nights later, we left after the afternoon show and flew the southern route home. The Chicago skyline is stunning from that perspective! And what did we do the next day? Put in a reservation for a plane to fly to Oshkosh in 2020!
Highlights: Camping under the wings, viewing the various displays, and watching the afternoon flight show together with thousands of other visitors.
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh becomes the busiest airport in the world for one week! It’s the renowned airshow and mass fly-in that puts all others to shame. It’s the trip that every pilot dreams of being able to make.
With N6860H booked several months in advanced and sleeping bags packed, 2019 was the year 2 club members (Kiaran Shadowbolt, Niel Godbout) and I got to check "Cessna, rock your wings, land on the yellow dot" off our bucket lists.
It was an unforgettable trip, and the flight to and from Oshkosh was just as remarkable as the incredible events throughout the week. The shared experience of surviving the Ripon Approach and camping under the wing created a friendship that will last a long time. Hopefully, this is the first of many air-adventures to follow!