Monday, August 03, 2009

Oshkosh 2009 Recap

Once again, I am back home after a great week at Oshkosh, and wondering how to write about all that happened during my time there. I'll start at the beginning...

(Quick aside; all @names refer to Twitter folks. EG; @futureshox means visit to find that person.)


I got a flight from Austin to Chicago, and from there to Appleton. The flight was pleasant - watching the dawn from several thousand feet - and uneventful. Only trouble was, when I arrived at Appleton, I discovered that my bag containing clothes and tent has made a separate journey to Monterrey, California. This was not in the plan! I was assured of a phone call to let me know what was happening and I had no other choice but to get the bus down to Oshkosh as planned.

All was not lost though as I still had all my camera gear and there were aeroplanes to be examined, so into the show I went. My first stop was Hangar A, in which I found Lynda (@girlswithwings) in her trade booth. Lynda kindly offered me a tent to sleep in. Then it was on to the flightline, just in time to see Thunderbird F-16 #8 zoom past:

Next up was the arrival of White Knight 2, the new spacecraft launching vehicle from Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites. It arrived overhead looking like two aircraft in formation, joined by the longest wing. Apparently this is the largest all-composite aerobatic aircraft ever built, and if the wing were to split in the middle (though it won't), the two halves could be flown back to Earth independently.

It really is very graceful in the air. When SpaceShipTwo is ready, it will be hung in the middle between the two fuselages and the whole assembly will be flown to the edge of space, where the rocket-powered ship will detach and fly into space itself. Can't wait to see that one.

Also in this afternoon's showcase was the Erickson AirCrane helicopter. This was very cool, it is the first time I've seen an AirCrane, and this one was geared up to do water bombing over large fires. It scooped up a load of water from the nearby Lake Winnebago and arrived on site where it dumped the water on the grass in between the runways. Very impressive.

After this, I decided to make tracks for the campsite. There was a lot of black clouds and stormy weather heading directly for the showground. So I got going, heading for the @MyTransponder RV which has been promoted on Twitter as being the HQ for all the new media folks that were gathering on site. Of course, while walking the mile-long camp site, the weather arrived, so I got to the RV looking like a drowned rat. @Mike_Miley and @RodRakic and @DaveFlys were inside and made me very welcome, providing a towel and a beer. They also offered me a spare bunk for the night. This was fabulous! We all stayed inside the RV and waited for the rain to stop.

Later on, we visited @Av8rdan's tweetup/book exchange which he was holding at the Media Centre. I met a few folks there and exchanged a book. @Av8rdan provided some of us (the first 10 to respond, earlier in the week) with shiny Twitter nametags which were cool. I met with @DanBeauvais from ISAP (International Society for Aviation Photography) as well as Dick Knapinski from EAA, @MaxTrescott and plenty more. Then it was back to the RV for a beer and a most welcome bed.


An impressive sight to behold was an endless stream of Vans aircraft processing down the taxiway while I wandered around the homebuilts area. On and on they came, including the Falcon Flight aircraft from Texas leading the pack. Some time later, they all took off and disappeared off. A little later on, they came back in formation - here are thirty seven Vans RVs all at once!:

I'd had a phone call from the baggage guy the previous afternoon advising me my bag would be delivered this morning, and sure enough I got another call from the delivery guy telling me he was on his way. I met up with him at noon and reclaimed my bag from him. *Whew*! I moved into the next field of aircraft and plonked everything down onto the grass while I undid the rucksack straps from my big bag. It was a long walk even to the bus park from where I'd met the guy. At this moment, an angel with a golf cart stopped and asked if I wanted a ride somewhere. Dee took me right down to Camper Registration, snuck me into the line and whisked me away to find Lynda's campsite, where Lynda had saved me a space. Thanks, Dee, you are a star! Dee saved me so much time, I was able to get camp set up and get back to the flightline in time to watch the A380 arrival.

The Airbus A380 is the world's biggest passenger airliner. It can seat a maxiumum of something like 850 people in economy class, although most airlines will install a mixture of seating classes and carry 500 or so. It has a double-decker seating arrangement, you can clearly see the two rows of windows in the fuselage. It is a massive aeroplane but very agile for its size. This example has no seats installed, and was light on fuel, to enable it to land at Oshkosh. The runway here is at the short end of the usable size of runway for an A380. The pilot made a very good display of the aircraft, showing off its many wheels and even doing a Cobra maneuver, showing 30-degree pitch up and down. A very big, impressive aircraft.

By this time, I was quite fatigued and wandered off to the media center in search of anyone I knew. Chances were slim to find anyone since the airshow was going on, but I also wanted to sit at a table and solar-charge my phone which was running down. @pilot2b showed up not long after, so Marty and I sat and talked for a little while. Then my phone rang, it was Mark Twombly seeing if I wanted to visit the seaplane base. Of course I did! So I went over to the Seaplane Pilots' Association (SPA) booth to meet with Mark. Mark's son Ian was also there. We headed for Mark's car but while en route, he called to see what was going on at the seaplane base - the wind was very gusty and nothing was flying, so we went back to the house Ian was staying at and had a couple of beers, before going into Oshkosh and finding a restaurant at which we had a nice meal. I was also lucky to meet a couple more AOPA guys including Chris Rose, whose photo work I have always admired.


I had promised Lynda that I would spend a couple of hours working at her booth this morning, as she was short of staff. So from 09:00-11:00 I asked passing folks if they were familiar with the Girls With Wings project, which encourages young women into aviation as a means to achieve their potential. I sold a few T-shirts and pieces of jewellery which was an entertaining way to spend the time.

Once released, I went to find some food, and charged my phone again whilst eating. I switched my phone on just in time to receive a message from Dave Allen (@daveflys), asking me if I'd be around at 13:00 as he needed my help. It turned out, he was due to fly in a Cessna 206 and wanted to put me in the back to take some photos! Of course I was up for this!

I will spend more time on this subject in a separate blog post, but for now here is the 206 that we flew in:

And after this ride, we were very lucky to be able to jump into this lovely Cessna Citation Mustang, which was flown by our own Steve Tupper aka @StephenForce!

We didn't get back from Appleton until 19:30 in the evening, so we all ended up having beers and brats at Firebase @myTransponder.


After the glorious weather of the last couple of days, it was a rude awakening on Thursday to find the skies coated in grey rainclouds. It drizzled and poured alternately for much of the day. However, this is Oshkosh, so a bit of rain doesn't dampen one's spirits! Off to the seaplane base as planned.

It was, as expected, pretty quiet at the seaplanes, but although it was raining, the wind was calm, so there were a few movements. I took a pontoon boat tour around the harbour to get closer to the aircraft, and found some very nice examples moored around and about. For example, here's an Aviat Husky floating in amongst some water lilies.

Without much action happening here, I returned to the main showground and texted a few people to see if they were about. Rodolfo answered and we arranged to meet near the Warbirds, which eventually happened.... I spent some time looking at the Warbirds on my own before we found each other and wandered back towards Jon and Hofy who were waiting by the flightline. Meanwhile, I got a text from Larry Grace of ISAP, bidding me to meet him at the Media Center at 13:15. Leaving Rodolfo and the others, I found a bunch of ISAP folks there so we chewed the fat a while before Larry showed up.

Larry is a true star and one of those guys who looks out for his friends, especially when they're ISAP members. He found me a really good place to watch the afternoon's air show from.

Cirrus Jet

That night, it was scheduled to be the @MyTransponder party back at the camp site. This turned out to be a riot (the pleasant kind!) with about 40 people showing up from all over the twitter/blogosphere. Kind folks from Remos Aircraft (Gordon Suttie, @remospilot) and @ForeFlight were dishing out T-shirts and hats - thanks guys! It was great to see @JenniferWhitley there too, with her friend Bo, both from the Austin area. I've met Jennifer before at Temple airshow. There was a big inflatable video screen showing a live feed of tweets, anything sent to Twitter maked '#osh09' was showing up there. I was pleased to meet Christopher O'Callaghan of AOPA; we spent some time chatting. I was very happy to see Will Hawkins @pilotwill again after our jaunt down to San Antonio a couple of months ago with @stephenforce, we shared a beer and conversation and talked about photos and Will and Rico's forthcoming film, A Pilot's Story. It was a real shame Rico wasn't about, I spent the entire week looking for but not finding him; hope you're doing OK, Rico! @pilot2b, @airpigz, @bilwil, @pilotdamon, @DaveFlys, @adamcanfly, @OnTheFlightLine, @rodrakic and our gracious host @mike_miley were all present (did I miss anyone?); it was a fab party and great to spend time with everyone, making new friendships and reinforcing existing ones.


A slower start this morning, perhaps just as well after the late night before! Larry picked me up at 08:30 with his friend Jonathon (who lives about 5 minutes away from my Dad in the UK, as it turns out!) and we went back to the seaplane base - this morning, in beautiful sparkling sunshine. We met up with Jon Berry (@gonjon), David Leininger and Jurgen Radler; we were a mixture of ISAP and Fred Miranda members, all enjoying the seaplanes in the morning sun.

One aircraft we had come to see was this Icon seaplane, a new kit plane with folding wings which I believe is a first for a seaplane:

Plenty of other aircraft were floating about, including this Micro Mong, here seen doing a spirited takeoff:

One unexpected delight was the sight of the Canadian Lancaster flying overhead! This had sat on Aeroshell Square all week but could not fly much due to the 50-hour time before overhaul (TBO) on this aircraft type; the Canadians need to keep some hours on it for their own shows.

After a few hours of watching aircraft splash about, we repaired back to the main site and got lunch in Arby's (I think) before going back inside. We also met up with Frans Dely and his friend Gisela, both from South Africa. Frans is the man responsible for those stunning T-6 formation waterskiing shots a few years ago. Larry took us all down to meet with Paul Bowen who is one of the world's top aviation photographers, an ISAP member and an all-round great guy. He was signing his Air To Air books in the Flying Magazine tent. He was extremely kind, and gave us each a signed copy of whichever book we chose. Thanks Paul, you're a star!

Around this time, White Knight 2 was flying another demo:

Larry, Jonathon and I tried to get a photo spot on the flightline with Jon Berry, Hofy and Jurgen but it was way too crowded, so we jumped into Larry's car and drove right across to the southern end of the runway, just in time for the A380 takeoff. We watched the afternoon's air show very comfortably without too many people crowding around. Here's Ed Hamill's Pitts landing:

We regrouped after the show with more ISAP folks at the media tent where we enjoyed a group discussion about ISAP and the forthcoming symposium in Las Vegas, and other ideas for the organisation. Later on we decamped to Applebees restaurant for dinner, and as luck would have it, Dan Beauvais, Bryan and Claudia Stock joined us at the next table which made a good gathering even better.

Larry dropped me off at the campsite, where I made a bee line straight back to the @MyTransponder base camp, with a slight detour via the @Airpigz gathering which was almost next door. I sat and talked with the assembled company before they dispersed, then rejoined Mike and some others in the RV, unwilling to end my last night at Oshkosh. But after a while my own campsite beckoned...


I awoke to the sound of thin rain pattering on my tent fabric. Scrambled to strike camp before the rain got worse. Managed to shove everything under Lynda's shelter where I was able to dry the tent a bit with a towel before packing it up, it wasn't perfect but it got the worst off. Lynda kindly gave me a ride over to @MyTransponder to dump my heavy bags for a few hours. @Daveflys was there, so I walked with him up to the showground before we parted ways; him to the EAA radio station, me to the classics and ultralights, where I spent a merry hour or so examining those.

I came back through Aeroshell Square and the EAA tent, and saw this Canadian Lysander again (here photographed a couple of days earlier)

Back to Firebase @MyT and by now, everyone was up and had just eaten pancakes. Star that he is, Mike made a fresh batch for me :-) So now, I could bid my farewells to folks on a hearty breakfast, and catch my bus ride back to Appleton, and my flight back through Chicago to Austin.

So here I am, now reflecting on a fine week in Wisconsin. Once again, just like Sun'n'Fun earlier this year, the week has unfolded with surprises and unexpected delights, old friends and new, and it might sound cheesy but it leaves me with a warm glow inside. I am lucky to have such kind and generous friends, and I really hope I can repay the favours they have done for me.

Roll on #OSH10!

1 comment:

Larry Grace said...

Jo, a great recap of the week in Oshkosh! It was a fun week and look forward to see you at ISAP in Las Vegas.
Drop in to and for a video recap and my images from the week.

Have fun back in the UK and make sure you and Jonathon have a beer for me.