Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Flying Across America

On July 10th, Jason Schappert and Vincent Lambercy visited Georgetown on their way home to Florida. They had left there three weeks previously and flown to California, and were now about half way back. Their flight was to promote General Aviation, and celebrate the fact that despite their dissimilar backgrounds, two pilots from different countries could fly together and be part of the same family of aviation.

Their visit co-incided with the Texas Aviation Association's Safety Day, at the new Aero Centex FBO. Vincent and Jason had been invited to speak there, and they related how much more complex and expensive it is to fly in Europe versus the United States. I intended to get this online when it was current, but Life Happened, so here we are a couple of months later. However, their message is more than relevant today, and will be more so in the future. Fight user fees!

To learn more, visit FlyingAcrossAmerica.com
Jason's website: m0a.com
Vincent's website: PlasticPilot.net
Texas Aviation Association: txaa.org

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Oshkosh 2010

Wow, what a trip.

This year I got lucky. No commercial flights, luggage going to California or TSA shenanigans to deal with. Not this time. I travelled in style, by King Air! I was hooked up via the EAA RideShare website, and Al agreed to carry me. (You should have heard me holler when I finished that phone call!) There were ten of us on the aircraft. It was large, with leather seats, DVD player, moving map displays and even a toilet. We were told it's a Federal law that the first person to use that has to clean it. I think it remained unused ;-)

The King Air; my aerial chariot for #OSH10!

Leaving from Georgetown, about an hour's drive north from my house, we stopped in Fort Worth to pick up another passenger, then in Iola, KS for lunch, refuelling and (of course) a visit to the Russell Stover chocolate factory. Every journey to Oshkosh should involve a chocolate factory.

I rode in what was effectively the jump seat, just behind the cockpit, so I could see what was going on up front. We leapt off the tarmac like the proverbial scalded cat, as though the aeroplane was hardly loaded at all. We cruised at 23,000 ft on the way out and 28,000 ft on the way back, where we were able to. It's more efficient at this height, apparently. The whole flight time took about four hours.

Our path to Oshkosh was laid out by the inch-thick NOTAM document which everyone must carry in their aeroplane and adhere to like glue. Warbirds and turbine aircraft are routed in over the lake to the west of the airport. So with a pair of eyes at every window, we kept watch for other traffic while we came in across the water.

On landing at Oshkosh (Yay! My first time!) it was apparent that the place was not quite its usual self. There had been enormously heavy rain over the weeks leading up to the event, with the result that the ground was completely saturated, with puddles and small lakes everywhere. Not the kind of nice, firm grass suitable for parking planes on. So the North 40, which is usually completely covered in aircraft, was almost empty. Aircraft were parked between the taxiway and the main runway. And the Basler FBO concrete was a precious resource. Luckily, we had a space reserved in advance!

Al had sent a minivan up ahead with the bulk of our camping gear, so we were met by the intrepid travellers who had spent two days driving north, the slow way. Then it was time to find a camping spot. For various reasons, Al's usual camping area was unusable this year. So we eventually found a slight rise of ground at the top end of the North 40 which had stayed dry enough to pitch tents on. Cue one tent village springing into life!

A MiG on rollout

By the time all this was done, we were hungry. So the entire crew jumped into the minivan and we headed out to Culver's for dinner, and afterwards to the shops for supplies. One six-pack of local New Glarus beer in hand, after we arrived back at the campsite, I headed over to Camp Scholler to meet Glenn, a friend from Austin who rode up in his friend's Cessna 172. We enjoyed a few of those beers :-)


Not a vast amount to report from Sunday. I always find that my first day at a big show like this is spent getting to grips with it; finding my way around, seeing what is about and what is going on. The show hadn't officially started yet, and with the rain as it had been, a lot of it hadn't even been built yet! There were a lot of people working feverishly to finish the big display stands, reassemble aeroplanes etc.

A DC-7 on Aeroshell Square

I hooked up with Glenn and we wandered around for a bit, with the intention of photographing arrivals from the flightline. This proved impossible, since there were so many aircraft parked in between us and the runway, as that was the only place to put them all.

A Phantom kicking up dust on takeoff

We parted ways in the later afternoon, as neither of us was sure of our dinner plans. As it turned out, Glenn came to our camp site, and the whole lot of us went to the Warbirds Party. This was cool; although we arrived too late for the food, there was still plenty of free beer and ice cream. Yay! I even got to meet Kermit Weeks who was behind me in the line for beer ;-) However, beer and ice cream does not a healthy meal make, so we all repaired to the local pizza shop and enjoyed some tasty pies there. Glenn and I later finished off those beers back at his camp. Ahh, beer.


This morning, I went to the presentation that Paul Bowen was doing, on aviation photography. Paul is a very accomplished photographer and it's always worth going to see his beautiful images and pick up some more tips. Whilst there, I ran into Jurgen. Paul Bowen gave a very nice talk and Jurgen and I talked with him for a little while afterwards. During this time, the sky started to rumble with the sound of 23 DC-3 aircraft arriving in formation, which is not something you see every day, so Jurgen and I scooted to photograph them all landing. I wondered where they were all going to be parked, given the wet grass situation, but it seems there is a lot of concrete round the back of Wittman Field and they all vanished behind the trees.

A DC-3 on arrival

Jurgen is a member of the International Society for Aviation Photography (ISAP), as am I, and we had met in Las Vegas earlier this year, as well as spending time online on the Fred Miranda message board (FM/MA2A). I am in the incredibly fortunate position of knowing several distinct, but overlapping, groups of aviation people, many of whom would be at #OSH10 this week. Oh yes; the #OSH10 hashtag is used to label anything and everything to do with this year's event...

I ran into Martt from AirPigz on AeroShell Square. Martt is a member of the merry band of aviation New Media folks who descend on large air shows. These guys include bloggers, podcasters, videographers, radio jocks, organizations, folks on Facebook and Twitter, and they let photographers like me hang around with them too. A very diverse group of similar-minded folks, all with a passion for aviation and the means to broadcast that passion, to share it with others.

A very shiny DC-3 on Aeroshell Square

Jurgen and I watched the air show that afternoon along with Glenn and Nadya; my memory is hazy already but I think Jay and Warner from MA2A were there too. Different people came and went during the week. The highlight was the introduction to the world of the new 2011 Ford Explorer, brought into the show suspended underneath the huge Ericksson Air Crane helicopter. Very cool.

The AirCrane dumping water later in the week

That night, I had the good fortune to be told of the Rubber Chicken Party (Thanks Beth!). A $15 donation to Young Eagles gets you admission to one of the coolest shindigs of Oshkosh. There were a ton of people there, including Myrtle who had taken me under her wing the first year I came to Oshkosh. David and Richard from ISAP were there, and later on, Mike and Rod from MyTransponder arrived. Everyone was supplied with potatoes and potato guns too, which resulted in a large number of people shooting each other with potato pellets. Factions were formed; alliances made and broken, it was great fun!


Tuesday morning started at some unGodly hour, as I wanted to meet up with some of the Twitter crowd who were assembling at dawn to take photos of the warbirds. It was a lovely but short sunrise; we managed to get some shots. I found my own P-51 there too, a Mustang named 'Lady Jo'!

P-51 at dawn

Next, it was off to the Seaplane Base. I found John there, who pilots the little Micro Mong biplane on floats. We had a good conversation, and he arranged for me to get into the controllers' stand, on the very point of the entrance to the harbour. This afforded me some great views of the planes coming in and out. Thanks, John!

John enjoying his Micro Mong

A SeaRey coming in to harbour

A few ISAP folks were hanging around, including Glenn and Nadya, who kindly gave me a ride back to the main airfield, after which we walked down to the flightline to watch the airshow with the others.

A Harvard (T-6) in RAF colours

About a dozen of us went to dinner that night at Applebees, which was a welcome chance to spend some time with folks who I don't normally get to see all that much.


Social Media was a major factor at this year's #OSH10. Cessna jumped into the party in a big way, and hosted a Tweetup on Wednesday morning. This was a great chance to put some faces to names, as we all enjoyed coffee and doughnuts provided by Cessna. And we each got a T-shirt for the occasion, too! This was followed by a Twitter-based treasure hunt, which kept a lot of us busy during the morning, and from which I did not walk away empty handed! All good fun; thank you, Cessna.

I spent some time after this having a look around the Vintage area, in which you can find all kinds of fabulous aircraft. Many of them are rare or even the only example of their kind. Lots of colour and classic 30's lines abound here.

The Oakley Viper Pitts doing aerobatics

Back to the flightline later on for the airshow, again with some MA2A folks. Rodolfo and Warner had arrived today, and I ended up going for dinner at a very new Italian restaurant, Benvenutos, with them, for some very tasty food.


Yet another day starting at the crack of sparrowfart, as Jurgen and his family picked me up at 05:30. We zoomed over to the seaplane base to catch the sunrise over there. All was quiet; the water was still. This made for some very tranquil scenes.

A Norseman enjoying the calm morning

Later on, the activity level picked up. Both the Quest Zodiac and the Gweduck put in some watery appearances which was nice to see, and the Icon A-5 did another demo.

Jurgen and his folks had to leave to go back to the Netherlands. They gave me their camping chair; this proved to be a total blessing, as a week of stomping around with camera gear and standing up all day takes its toll...

I ran into Larry and Jay from ISAP, who kindly gave me a lift back to the main site, where we watched the airshow with a bunch more MA2A folks.

The AeroShell aerobatic team starting up

That night, it was the MyTransponder party. This normally would have been held at @HomeSweetRoad, the MyT RV. However due to all the mud, they were not able to camp in the Scholler campground, so Sennheiser stepped in and hosted the party. This was great; they were already set up to have live music, so we had some cool musicians playing all night. Rod and Mike were excellent hosts, and there was Beer!

The Goodyear Blimp floating over the party

MyT had been running a QR-code based techno treasure hunt all week, which to my delight, Mike announced that I had won :-) Many thanks to Scheyden and Sennheiser for my goodies :-)


On Friday morning, I figured that since I'd not managed to ride on anything all week, that ought to change. So I took myself down to the Ford Trimotor hut early on and got in line, which put me on the first flight of the day.

The Ford Trimotor

The Ford Trimotor is one of a rare breed; one of the first airliners from back in the 1930s. It is made of wood and is painted in the old-fashioned coaching style inside, while the outside is all corrugated for strength. It's a lovely old machine and works hard all week. Each ride is about eight minutes in the air, with varying amounts of taxi time depending on the traffic. So they get through a number of rides each day, every day. What with the Trimotor on one side of the field and three Bell 47 helicopters the other side, even if nothing else flew, Oshkosh airspace would never be quiet!

The flight was lovely, we took off to the North, made a hard right turn to avoid traffic coming in from the West, then flew out over the lake, up to the Seaplane Base where we got a great view, then curling around back towards Wittman Field to land again. Well worth the $50.

The seaplane base from the Trimotor window

I had a wander through the Homebuilt area before heading over to the flightline. Hofy had texted me to let me know he was there, and to be quite honest I was getting exhausted after a long week of walking around under heavy loading. So a quieter day with my new Chair seemed like a good idea! I headed back in to Aeroshell Square to meet Stephen Force before returning, and soon the MA2A clan gathered together and we all proceeded to shoot the airshow. Unfortunately the weather was not the best, but the massive Wall of Fire burned some of the rain off!

A P-51 Mustang on takeoff

We managed to assemble a good crowd for dinner this night, at Fratello's Lounge/Fox River Brewing Co, which had some very tasty beer, and a Cirrus SR-22 parked outside. Jim, Steve, Jon, Jay, Warner, Rodolfo, Hofy and I enjoyed a good meal there.

I could have happily spent all night talking with the guys, but sadly all good things come to an end.


Time for our merry band of King Air riders to pack up and get out of town. We struck camp early; wheels-up at 8am. The van was packed solid with the heavy stuff and we piled into the aeroplane. Took off into the murky morning and broke out of thick cloud, heading South.

Our journey was the reverse of last week's route; stopping in Iola, KS again for breakfast and another chocolate factory visit. This time, I bought some big boxes to take back :-)

Bouncing off Fort Worth to drop one of our number, then back to Georgetown on a glorious hot Texas afternoon.

Time to head home; see Alan, relax with a cold beer and reflect on what a wonderful chance I've had to share #OSH10 with friends.

Gene Soucy and his ShowCat with wingwalker