2009: An Oshkosh AirVenture Odyssey

I had recieved a letter from EAA that said our chapter had been awarded a Newsletter Editor Award. They give out 1st through 5th place awards but they do not tell you which one you will received. I had never been to Oshkosh before and was thinking about going. Pam said, “You really ought to go.” Okay. I’m talked into it.

I was looking online for airline tickets but had not purchased one yet and while at the airport one day, I got to talking to Mac about Oshkosh. He was going. There would be a large number of T-28’s there that Mac wanted to inventory to see which ones he had flown in his Navy career, and there was the Wednesday night dinner where Ron Shelton would receive his Young Eagles Coordinator Of The Year Award, hopefully presented by Harrison Ford. And there was the chapter leaders breakfast on Saturday, where they would announce and award the chapter Newsletter Editor Awards. Also, there would be a record attempting formation flight of at least 36 Vans RV airplanes which would include 242’s own James Clark and Ken Harrill, and we hoped to get to see that.As we were talking, Mac said, “Why don’t we just fly up there.” That sounded like a great idea to me.

We planned to depart on Tuesday, July 28th, to give us some leeway for weather. We definitely wanted to be there in time for Ron’s award dinner Wednesday night.Off To OshkoshTuesday morning finally came, and at O-early hundred, I got up, loaded my bags in my truck and left home at around 6:15 a.m. Pam and the kids left at the same time to head down to Florida to see her folks. Kisses and hugs and we were on the road.I arrived at Mac’s house at 6:30 a.m. We packed up as Pat saw us off and stopped by Starbucks for coffee and cakes, then headed to KCUB. There we packed up the plane, preflighted and departed for Oshkosh at around 8:15 a.m.We had to stop in Spartanburg for a while due to IFR over Asheville. There is a great mural painted on a wall in their FBO of some WWI biplanes and their pilots.When Asheville was reporting VFR, we headed for London, Kentucky. After about two hours, we arrived into the London area. I was showing the airport just ahead on my Garmin 196 and Mac was showing the airport about four to the north. What? After a bit of “what the heck is going on” we saw the VOR that I had been navigating to with my GPS, and then we saw the airport about three miles to the north that Mac was navigating to on the 496. Mac and I agreed that it would be best if we both were navigating to the same place – and that place be an airport! So from then on, I double checked that I had the airport programmed into my GPS rather than a VOR.

At London, I showed Mac how to do a carrier landing – as if he really needed or wanted to see it – all 2100 pounds of us slamming onto the run way. Not as bad as I have done before, but it seems London has my number. Same thing as last year when Pam, the kids, and I came though on the way to Indiana. The extra wide runway is still deceiving me. No excuses though: London two, Mike Hoover zero. There, we refueled, took a quick break and took off for our next planned stop at Crawfordsville, Indiana

.In the area near Fort Knox there are some MOA’s and restricted areas we had to navigate around as Cincinnati told us they were active at the time. It was about this time, and funny enough, about the same time as last year’s trip to Indiana with Pam and the kids that I reached down and changed the transponder to the barometric pressure that Cincinnati called out. Mac quickly alerted my to my goofy error and we got it changed back. But this time, Cincinnati noticed and told us to check our transponder setting. Not sure why I keep doing that around that area. Must be in the air.

The weather was iffy in this area and having the Garmin 496 on board was a must. Thanks a bunch to Cantzon for lending us his Garmin 496. It is at this point we really could not continue on safely without it. I just drove and got to witness Mac navigate us through the weather, around some storms and cloud columns at around 6500 feet. I learned and experienced a whole lot of new things as I watched and witnessed Mac’s wizard-like manipulation of the weather around us.

On to Crawfordsville, Indiana, after about 2:45 of flight time since London, we stopped for fuel and to analyze the weather that was between us and Oshkosh. Crawfordsville is a nice airport, with courteous folks and a really nice new FBO, but they had not yet installed computers in their flight planning room. So we had to use whatever technology we had with us. Again, the Garmin 496 gave us the information we needed to continue on. The line of stormy weather blocking us from proceeding north to Oshkosh was moving ever closer to us, but after some analyzing, we decided to try and make it to Danville, Illinois, right at the leading edge of the weather. We launched again and got there after about twenty or thirty minutes. That is where we determined that we’d stay put for the night.Danville is another nice airport with all the amenities. They lent us their courtesy car for the evening so we could drive to the hotel – and this without us having bought fuel. How extraordinarily nice of them.

The bad weather we avoided by stopping at Danville hit us about the time we checked into the hotel. I saw a bolt of lightning hit behind another hotel nearby. It was a flash-boom. A tall, thick column of white energy hitting the ground so hard and loud that sparks flew off of the it. So, we decided to brave this bad storm and head out to find some dinner. Down the interstate we went about four miles through hard rain and flash-booming lightning and sparks like I’ve never seen, both us of glad that we had decided not to venture further today. We arrived at The Beef House, a highly recommended restaurant. It was good, but expensive.

We got an early start the next morning, loaded up the Cessna and turned the courtesy car in and then we were on our way. It was a very beautiful morning. Clear skies and smooth as silk at 2500 feet. We stayed down low to enjoy the beautiful landscape of flat green terrain. Cornfields divided by the north/south and east/west roads as far as you could see with white farm houses speckling the landscape, all resembling each other – a repetitious pattern for many many miles.

We decided to land at Dekalb, about an hour and a half short of Oshkosh to refuel so we would have plenty of fuel on our approach to Oshkosh. As we got closer and closer to Oshkosh, we listened to the frequency called out in the Oshkosh NOTAM. The controller was speaking constantly as if announcing some sports event on the radio, and all the time with a mild mannered and welcoming tone – a good bedside manner – identifying each aircraft with the command of “rock your wings,” and then complementing them with a “very good, welcome to Oshkosh” and then sending them on their way.“Once you reach Ripon, do not navigate straight to Fisk. Follow the railroad tracks. Expect your next instructions at Fisk. If you are not at Fisk, we are not talking to you,” the controller repeated many times.“White low-wing, rock your wings. Very good. Turn right heading 090 and follow the road. Monitor frequency xxx.x. Red high-wing, rock your wings. Very good. Continue to follow the railroad tracks. Monitor frequency xxx.x.“

As we got within twenty minutes of Ripon we began to let down to 1800 feet per the NOTAM and prepared to slow to 90 knots. Faster folks could let down to 2300 feet if they could do 135 knots. Maybe when I get my RV-9A built, I can use that altitude and speed. Perhaps it will be just a little bit less bumpy.It was very bouncy at 1800 feet and we flew this altitude for 15 minutes straight to Ripon. By the time we got within a few miles we could, all of a sudden, see a line of airplanes out in front. Amazing! We were in “the game!”

We slowed to 90 knots reluctantly and tried to keep the half-mile separation from the airplane in front of us. As we approach Fisk you could see each airplane rock their wings on command and then be assigned to turn to 090 and follow the road, or continue on, following the railroad tracks. What they were doing was splitting traffic between the two runways in use. At this time they were using 36 and 27.At Fisk, 90 knots at 1800 feet, the controller had us rock our wings – it was our turn! “White and blue Cessna, rock your wings. Very good. Turn right heading 090 now and follow the road. Turn now.” And so we did. We were given a frequency change and waiting further instruction. Heading 090 we followed the airplane in front of us, hoping he knew what he was doing. Oshkosh was there to our left, huge with aircraft all over that place. How magnificent!The aircraft ahead of us got his order to rock his wings. He did and was told to “turn left now” and take runway 36 right. Moments later we were ordered to rock our wings. We did. “Turn left now and take runway 36 left. Land on the yellow dot.” So we set up for landing. I landed 300 feet before the yellow dot, but that was okay.

We were ordered to turn left off the runway into the grass immediately. They were landing two or three at a time each runway so we knew someone was behind us, albeit with instructions to land on the purple dot closer to the threshold. Our yellow dot was half way down the runway.We turned off the runway and were directed to follow to the next guy directing aircraft. It was very obvious what to do. Just follow to the next guy waving you on. We taxied in the grass all the way up to runway 27 and down and back up the length of it in the grass, bouncing the whole way on the bumpy terrain. This took about 15 minutes and then we arrived at our parking spot where we shut down.

The linemen helped push us back into our spot in the tightly packed aircraft parking lot. We were parked close to the terminal but, not knowing the place, I hadn’t realized what a great spot we had right close to the terminal.A nice line guy with a golf cart took us and our luggage to the terminal where we proceeded to the curb to catch our bus to the college dorms. We were the only two at the bus stop, so we unpack our fold up bag chairs, sat under a shade tree and drank a beer – toasting to our long journey and finally having gotten to Oshkosh.

The bus to the dorms finally arrived at the terminal  so we loaded up and after 20 minutes or so we arrived at the dorms. Mac got off first, and then after struggling with my over abundance of luggage, I stepped down from the bus. The bus driver thought it necessary to inform me that by far, I was the one with “the most luggage” he’d seen at Oshkosh. Thank you for that!

Once settled into the dorm room, we set out again for AirVenture museum, where we would be attending the awards dinner. This was a special evening. Ron Shelton had been awarded Young Eagles Coordinator Of The Year and we would be sitting at his table for dinner. We were looking forward to seeing Harrison Ford, the EAA Young Eagles Chairman. We sat at table number one with Ron and a life long friend who he had invited, Ken and Melinda Harrill, Xen Motsinger, James Clark, and Rachel Haynie, who had come along to report on the event for a local Columbia paper. Paul Carter was there as well.We heard Harrison Ford speak and then awards were handed out.

Ron received his award from Mr. Ford, and then we were treated to a great speech by ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles. It was a very entertaining speech. What a great evening! Ron had earlier spoken at the Young Eagles workshop, where some of our very own CA?Johnson High School students were in attendance.

Thursday morning, Mac and I went to eat breakfast at the college cafeteria. They had a variety of breakfast foods to eat, in a mall-like setting, with several food serving stations and plenty of tables.It was cold and drizzling rain, so Mac decided that morning would be good for catching up on some work. So he stayed at the dorm to work and I set out for AirVenture. I met up with John Pipkin outside the dorms and he was kind enough to offer me a ride. When we arrive at the airport, John and Xen got out at the airplane judges’ trailer. They would be judging aircraft all day. Then Joyce dropped me off at the nearby gate.?Thanks to the Pipkins for the ride!

There I stood at the entrance of Aviation Mecca alone, cold, and drizzly damp. The first thing I did was find a clothing vendor, which happened to be the Vintage Aircraft store. I got a nice long sleeved T-shirt and a cheap plastic poncho and set out to discover aviation at Oshkosh.The weather cleared, so I decided to wait in the long line to get the Airbus A380 tour. It took over an hour to get in. It was neat to see the inside but it was not decked out for air travelers. It was still in the test flight mode, full of exposed wiring and water drums located throughout to simulate passenger weight. Big bird!

I met up with Mac in the early afternoon and we made our way down to the area where Vans Aircraft had their tent set up. We got to meet Van himself and other folks there, who were very, very friendly and giving of their time. Thanks to Van and all of his staff for a great visit. We got to see the new RV-10 and RV-12. Two great looking airplanes.Friday morning, we set out early to AirVenture. The bus driver didn’t recognize me without my 60 pounds of luggage. Whew!We spent a solid day at AirVenture.

Afterward, I had blisters in places on my feet I wouldn’t have thought possible. It made getting around for the rest of the trip sometimes painful. But there’s nothing like airplanes and aviation to get your mind off of everything else. We engulfed everything aviation that long day.We went over to where all the T-28’s were parked on the flight line. Mac inventoried as many as he could to see which ones he had flown during his Navy career. Several days after the Oshkosh trip Mac told me that there were several he had indeed flown.On Saturday, we were up very early to make the 7:00 a.m. breakfast at the Chapter Leaders’ breakfast. There we listened to Tom Poberenzy speak. Then Paul Poberenzy for a few moments. Then they announced some chapter awards. I was pleased to see Al Patton from Chapter 172 over at the Pea Patch near Augusta recieved an achievement award. Congratulations to Al. It was great to finally meet him in person. He told me once that he had been doing their chapter’s newsletter for forty years!

Then Newsletter Editor Awards were announced. They called third place, then second place…What happened to forth and fifth? So I was surprised when they called me up there for the First Place Award. This was great – a grand finale to such a wonderful time at Oshkosh.

Mac and I quickly made our way to the terminal to depart OSH as weather from the west was already arriving in Oshkosh. We taxied out of our perfect parking place about 100 yards to our launch point on runway 27. Constantly, airplanes were lining up two side by side, one departing then the next – all the time, just listening, not talking. Then our turn, “Taxi into position on the right side and hold….Cessna 7-8-Lima cleared for takeoff. Thank you for coming.” And we were off.The Trip HomeWe made it back down to Dekalb (DKB) before the weather got us. We studied the weather and tried to get back out, navigating through some low scud, hoping to get through the system that was moving in the same direction we wanted to go. We flew out for about 10 minutes before we decided to turn around. We would stay overnight in Dekalb. We found a nice motel and a great place to have dinner, and got some rest.Up early Sunday morning, the weather was beautiful. We were rewarded with smooth air at 7500 feet all the way to Kentucky. It started getting thick, so we descended to 3500 feet. It was hot and hazy. As we leveled off, I reached over to lean the mixture. Something new I learned is to always alert your flying partner when you lean the engine, especially if he has his head buried in a chart trying to figure out where you both are at. Just common courtesy that will save your flying partner some stress and prevent a brown out.We finally found Crossville, Tennessee, for some fuel. They had fuel this year! Off we go again, on the long cli

mb to 7500 feet. It tightened up over north Georgia, so we dove back into clear air below the clouds again at a hot and bumpy 3500 feet. We made a quick fuel stop at Elberton County Airport (27A) on the Georgia/SC border. This place was about as laid back as I have ever seen. There were two kind fellows sitting in the quaint FBO, hangar flying. We told them we needed fuel and they said to help ourselves and leave the money on the manager’s desk.Our last leg might be interesting as there was a bad storm between us and Columbia. The great Garmin 496 GPS weather showed us that we might just be able to fly to the north of the weather. And if Betsy can keep the speed up we might just outrun it and drop into Columbia ahead of it. A great tailwind helped us do just that. We were showing groundspeeds as fast as 147 mph over Lake Murray, where we descended from 5500 feet just in time to sneak up under Metro’s Class Charlie.Back on the ground we were greeted by Pam and the kids at the hangar. After we put Betsy away we joined a party in progress behind the SAC, where folks had gathered to celebrate Tom Roberts having gotten his Private Pilot Certificate thursday, July 30th, while we were at Oshkosh. Congrats Tom!It was great to be back home after such an eventful trip. Ole Betsy was solid the whole way, and Mac taught me a whole lot about navigating the weather and flying above the scattered clouds, where the air is smooth and cool. Thanks Mac for such a great trip! It will be hard to beat this, our Oshkosh odyssey.

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