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Matt Debski, Aircraft Owner WVFC 

Head to Oshkosh

My third quarter newsletter article is usually about Oshkosh.  I return from AirVenture so excited about aviation -- all aspects of it -- that I feel compelled to share my experience with WVFC members.  This year, though, I want you to start planning to be at AirVenture Oshkosh next year.  I'll give a brief recap of what AirVenture is and why I've been going (almost) every year since 2009.  I'll share how I have experienced Oshkosh the past several years and include some alternatives.  Then, you can start planning on how you'll visit Oshkosh next year.  When Oshkosh comes around next year, we can plan for how to meet up in Wisconsin.

Oshkosh is the Experimental Aircraft Association's annual aviation extravaganza.  It's hard to call it a convention, as that sounds too stuffy.  It's so much more than an air show, though there is a world-class air show (or two) every day.  It's a week of air shows, static aircraft displays, talks by aviation luminaries, forums, workshops, demonstrations, shopping, and mingling with people who love aviation.  Here is a sample of some of the things I did this year, from midday Monday through Wednesday evening:

·watched a demo of how to hand prop an airplane and gave it a try myself

·took a narrated tram ride through war birds that had been flown into Oshkosh by their owners

·enjoyed a forum on differential diagnosis of aircraft engine problems by Mike Busch, one of my favorite writers on aircraft maintenance

·wandered over to the ultralights area in the evening to see an incredible performance of model airplane and model helicopter flying by some of the US champions

·watched the Wednesday night airshow, which this year featured not only fireworks and aircraft with pyrotechnics coming out of them, but also fireworks while airplanes with pyrotechnics coming out of them circled around them

·watched parts of the afternoon airshows, including firefighting aircraft demos dropping loads of water from nearby Lake Winnebago to put out piles of burning pallets

·listened to the Flying Cowboys, who put on the High Sierra Fly-In, talking about STOL flying and their approach to safety and the sport

·watched the opening night concert by The Fray, a band I listened to a lot a decade ago

·checked out the Urban Mobility Showcase, which had models of all the various machines that companies say will be carrying us from San Francisco to San Jose in a few years

·walked through the four gigantic exhibitor hangars, looking for information about oxygen systems, modern fuel gauges, and the latest in STC'd experimental avionics

·watched the Uncontrolled Airspace podcast being recorded, a podcast I've listened to for over a decade, and talked with the host of the podcast for a bit afterward

·checked out the new modifications to the AirCam (the airplane I'm currently dreaming of building one day) as well as checked out the Switchblade Flying Car

·met some Oshkosh locals as well as some coworkers from across the country at The Ruby Owl, an awesome tap room in downtown Oshkosh

I say this is a sample because this was just what I could remember off the top of my head.  If any of this sounds appealing, you can go deep into any one of these areas over the course of the week.  Whenever I read through the schedule of activities, I always want to be at three events simultaneously.

Another great thing about the event is that with the exception of actual rides in airplanes, everything is included in the admission price.  Once you're in, the show is your oyster.  There's no nickel-and-diming to force you to decide if a given activity is worth it.

So, how do you get to Oshkosh?  The most adventurous way is to fly in yourself.  That avenue is an article or Safety Seminar unto itself.  If you're interested in flying in, the best thing to do is find someone who has actually flown in.  Or a CFI.  If you want to fly in, drop me an e-mail.  If there's enough interest I'll organize a knowledge sharing session or seminar next year.  There's nothing like landing at Wittman Airport, taxiing to your parking spot, and having the marshal utter those magic words "Welcome to Oshkosh!"

If flying yourself is outside your time or monetary budget, you can fly commercial.  My preferred route is to fly into Chicago O'Hare, rent a car, and drive the two and one-half hours to Oshkosh.  While there are flights to Green Bay and Milwaukee, Chicago offers a great blend of convenience, reliability, price, and direct flights. 

Once you get to Oshkosh, there are a number of places to stay, all detailed on the AirVenture web site.  If you fly in yourself, you can camp with your plane.  If you drive, you can camp in Camp Scholler.  This is the route I've always chosen: being onsite means that you don't have to fight traffic to get on the grounds.  It's inexpensive.  The downside is that if you don't like to camp, you can't get around that.  Camp Scholler is also filled with RVs, so you could rent an RV for a few days to get the same experience.  Some WVFC folks have done that.

You can go a more standard route of Airbnb, hotels, and other options.  This is an exercise left to the reader.

Finally, there are college dorm rooms available.  The Airventure web site provides links to the local college to reserve these rooms.

As Oshkosh approaches, EAA starts to send more and more teasers as they confirm various attendees.  About a week or so before the event, I usually start marking things in the AirVenture app that I'm interested in attending.  Then, at the event, based on what I've seen, my energy level, and just general feeling I'll decide what I'm going to try to see in a given day.

As in previous years, I hope I've managed to convey some of the awesomeness that is Oshkosh.  If you're interested in going next year, shoot me an e-mail.  I'll get in touch as I start doing my planning around May and urge you to go put concrete plans into motion.