AVweb presents Part Two of its Oshkosh Survival Guide, an insider's guide to the hows, whys and wheres of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2002. AVweb columnist Rick Durden provides you the benefit of his years of AirVenture experience with tips you won't find anywhere else. This second part of the two-part series covers what you need to know once you arrive, how to get around at the big show, what to do, and what not to do. There's also some additional tips on aircraft parking with some new-this-year changes that should make things easier for many.
July 21, 2002
|About the Author ...
Rick Durden is a
practicing aviation attorney who holds an ATP Certificate, with a type rating
in the Cessna Citation, and Commercial privileges for gliders, free balloons
and single-engine seaplanes. He is also an instrument and multi-engine flight
instructor. Rick started flying when he was fifteen and became a flight
instructor during his freshman year of college.
He did a little of everything
in aviation to help pay for college and law school including flight
instruction, aerial application, and hauling freight. In the process of trying
to fly every old and interesting airplane he could, Rick has accumulated over
5,400 hours of flying time. In his law practice, Rick regularly represents
pilots, fixed base operators, overhaulers, and manufacturers. Prior to
starting his private practice, he was an attorney for Cessna in Wichita for
He is a regular contributor to Aviation Consumer and AOPA Pilot
and teaches aerobatics in a 7KCAB Citabria in his spare time. Rick makes it
clear he is part owner of a corporation which owns a Piper Aztec because,
having flown virtually every type of piston-engine airplane Cessna
manufactured from 1933 on, as well as all the turboprops and some of the jets,
he cannot bring himself to admit to actually owning a Piper.
the first part of this series we focused on what you
needed to know before you set out for Oshkosh. This second part focuses on
what you need to know once you've arrived.
Fly-In Parking Information
Fly-in campers at AirVenture this year should call the telephone recording,
920-232-7820, or check the web
page with information on parking availability, before
departing. While the arrival ATIS is the authority on the issue, these bits of
information should be helpful as you depart as well as something to check
during a fuel stop. For those of you who won't be going to AirVenture, I
suspect the Web page will be worth visiting just to get a feel for how jammed
the airport becomes.
superb arrangement by the parking czars comes to AirVenture from Sun 'n Fun.
You can let them know where you want to park by preparing a sign ahead of time
with the desired parking spot on it. In the past, as spaces have opened up,
I've tried calling friends who were going to arrive to let them know of the
row number. They had problems getting to the row. Now, there is hope that
folks can hold up a sign to show where they desire to park. The AirVenture
Aircraft Parking web page includes the information you need to know
about this new procedure.
By the way, please don't hold the sign up until you have the airplane
collected and off the runway. It wouldn't look too cool on the accident report
as you explain you ground looped on roll-out because you were grabbing a sign
to show where you wanted to park.
What To See
you have not obtained a map of the area prior to arrival, make sure you get
the big, thick guide to the convention when you register. Once you have
cleared registration and rocketed off to view the hot item you wanted to see
first, have a seat in the shade and look over the map of the grounds to set up
a strategy as to what to see.
The flight line has warbirds at the north end, homebuilts in the center,
antique/classics at the south and ultralights and helicopters way south at
their own grass runway. Antique/classic camping with the airplane is to the
southwest of the flight line and continues south beyond the north/south runway
seemingly into Illinois. Spam cans, that's most of us, have parking and
camping on either side of the east/west runway which lies along the north side
of the airport. The "West Ramp" is about the center of everything,
just southwest of the control tower and is reserved for special displays. The
vendor buildings are just west of the West Ramp. More vendor areas are
scattered north of the West Ramp with the Fly Market northwest of the West
Ramp. The Forum area has been expanded with buildings in addition to tents.
The space allotted to forums and workshops is becoming more like a campus. The
forums and workshops are almost invariably excellent, so plan to arrive early
if you wish to sit.
The warbird area of the flight line will be blocked off about an hour or
so prior to the airshow, as the warbirds taxi out for their fly-pasts. Plan on
seeing the warbirds before 1:00 pm each day or after the airshow, as sometimes
the area gets blocked off kind of early.
Antiques/Classics: Dozens of excellent examples make a stroll south
of "airshow central" an essential exercise. Airplane-spotting trams
run through the area.
The museum is a must-see item. The worst time to go is during a rainstorm,
it's packed. Buses run to it and Pioneer Airport, which is behind the museum,
from the flight line area on a regular basis. The transportation center for
buses to the dorms at the University, to Appleton and Fond du Lac airports is
west of the main entrance. The city bus route to the dorms usually runs
thorough an area just west of the flight line, making it very convenient. It
can jam up during times of heavy vehicle traffic and right after the airshows.
The transportation center has always had very good signage and helpful people
for those of us who wander around wondering if we can get there from here.
With its classically-styled hangars and golden age of flight aircraft,
Pioneer Airport is well worth a walk. In fact, the walk west from the flight
line area through a park and the memorial hill to Pioneer Airport is a
relaxing break from the bustle of the rest of the convention.
The seaplane base requires a bus ride. The bus departs from the Quonset
Hut at the south end of the antique/classic area. Go. You will be glad you
did. Set aside about three hours for the visit.
The forum tents are behind the north end of the flight line. The main
problem with the forums is that they generally are so many very good ones, you
can't get to all that you desire to attend.
Theater In The Woods:
The Theater In The Woods is near the antique/classic parking area. Some of
the evening shows are outstanding, others are awful. Speakers are usually very
good, so if aviation humorists Rod Machado or Ralph Hood are going to perform
or any of the golden age test or racing pilots, combat pilots or astronauts
are going to speak, attend.
When it comes to musical events, there is a distressing tendency toward the
lowest common denominator such as country-western or pre-digested, bubble gum
lite. If you are not into tunes for the musically impaired, you may want to
pass those up. Blues, jazz, reggae, classical, rock and roll and contemporary
music generally doesn't make it to that venue. The times swing bands have
performed have been truly wonderful, although you can't get over the feeling
the organizers of the evening are a little shocked by such avant-garde music.
Turnout for the good events is usually large, so it behooves one to arrive
about a half hour early. Because this is the Midwest, things generally start
The Fly Market:
Treasures, garbage, pretty good deals, frauds, religious fanatics and
oddballs abound. It is a place you simply have to visit, if only to see what
and who have shown up this year. There is no rule of thumb other than the
extraordinarily low prices which used to be a part of the Fly Market haven't
been seen for years. The cost of renting vendor space is so high now that the
most a dedicated shopper can hope for is slightly below catalogue prices.
However, there is just so incredibly much wonderful junk in one place that the
search for a treasure is too intriguing to pass up. Yes, you can find hundreds
of used aviation books, great, as well as hideous aviation tee shirts and
spark plugs for an OX-5.
The flight line runs north and south, parallel to runway 18-36. The most
visible object on the field is the control tower, which is located near the
north end of runway 18-36, a few hundred yards west. It is generally the
baseline for giving directions.
If you are meeting people, the historic site call has been "Noon,
Saturday, under the arch." Well, the main entrance to the flight line is
no longer under the arch east of the control tower. The EAA arch is, however,
a good spot to take a break or arrange to hook up with folks. Just to the
southeast of the arch are a bunch of the little pedal planes moored so the
pedals can be turned, turning the prop, without going anywhere. It is the best
AirVenture photo op if you have a small child. I treasure the shot of my
daughter as an infant in a miniature SNJ just like her grandpa flew.
Emergency Messages, Announcements/Paging:
The PA system covers the entire flight line, there is always someone
talking about something. After fifteen minutes, most people tune out the PA
system, which is a problem because it is also used for paging and emergency
messages. If you need to reach someone in an emergency, go to the speakers'
stand east of the control tower and have the person paged. There is a bulletin
board nearby where messages can be left as well. If you have any reason to
believe you might be paged, check the bulletin board from time to time.
Airline Employee Messages:
Every year there is a set of roofed-over bulletin boards in an airline
employees center near the antique/classic registration building on the flight
line. Leaving messages there is a good way to communicate with folks who work
Aviation Organization Tents:
If you are a member of any of the various aviation organizations from AOPA,
through the Cessna Pilots Association, 99s and QBs, your organization probably
has a tent where you can get out of the sun or rain, sit down and get a cool
drink. It's worth a visit. It may be worth joining an organization just for
access. The convention guide you get when you check in will tell you where the
tent is located.
AirVenture Basic Etiquette And Courtesy
Hey, we are all in this together, among friends of aviation. Besides,
AirVenture is Mecca for us, let's treat it and each other appropriately.
It simply is not done at OSH. Wisconsin is known for being
aggressively neat. Littering is, I think, a capital crime. Bastinado is too
good for those jerks who throw things on the ground at AirVenture, keelhauling
the violator at the seaplane base is probably the way to go. If you see a
piece of trash on the ground, pick it up and put it in one of the nearby trash
containers. Walking past litter is considered a breach of etiquette nearly as
serious as dropping the stuff in the first place. After all, the trash you do
not pick up may be the trash which fouls something important on your airplane.
Leaving A Tiedown:
Never, ever, ever start your airplane at its tiedown. There are airplanes
parked and folks camped behind you. For crying out loud, don't blow dirt,
rocks, grass, small children and other trash through their campsites. They've
washed and waxed their airplanes, they do not need rock chips from your
stupidity. Pull your airplane forward into the taxiway alley, turn it 90
degrees, then get in and start it. If you are by yourself, there will always
be two or 10 folks around who will help you pull your airplane forward if you
only ask. If you start up and taxi out of your tie down spot do not be at all
surprised to be called up a day or two later and asked to pay for a tent you
destroyed or a touch up paint job on the Bonanza parked behind you. By the
same token, offer to help someone pull his airplane who looks as if he is
about to start up in his tiedown spot.
If you are parked in the Antique/Classic/Contemporary parking areas, you must
have a wing-walker before you start your engine.
Look But Don't Touch:
Please, please, please, look all you want at the wonderful aircraft, but
don't touch them. Would you want mobs of people putting their grubbies all
over your pride and joy? This is especially important if you have kids, or are
apt to behave as one ... tell them ahead of time they are to look but not
touch, and remind them frequently, until they are saying it back to you and
actually following the admonition.
The airport shuts down to flight operations shortly after dark. Have some
consideration for your fellow campers and keep your personal noise level down
as well. The ugliest confrontations at OSH have been over late, loud parties.
Gasoline-powered electrical generators are great technological
achievement, but ... in the airplane camping area these should be shut down by
10:00 pm. Yes, I know the ad says they are so quiet you won't even hear it. The
ads are wrong. Everyone nearby will hear it and you will not be very
popular for very long. It is still not considered acceptable for someone to
put a small potato in the exhaust pipe of one running later than that. Despite
provocation it is also not acceptable to do the potato bit in the RV parking
Airplane Camping Buses:
Thankfully, a number of school buses run almost continually to shuttle
folks around the airplane camping area. The drivers are usually very friendly.
(Hey, this is Wisconsin, what'd you expect?) There is a box for a small
contribution as you get in. Be a little less of a tightwad than usual and put
the quarter or so requested in the box, smile at the driver and enjoy the
Lawn Chairs And The Afternoon Airshow:
Please do not sit on the front edge of the flight line and block the view
of the "groundlings." Have a heart and sit back about 20 feet. While
it is probably too much work, it would be nice if the EAA would put a second
"lawn chair line" about 20 feet behind the spectator line. You can
see just fine and it gives those who sit on the ground the ability to see as
well. Do not bring your lawn chair and leave it hoping to stake out a spot on
the airshow line. Because of the risk it will blow into an airplane
potentially more valuable than you, the EAA volunteers will pick it up and
store it until time to melt it down for Wisconsin beer cans. Many feel this is
the highest calling for a lawn chair.
major portion of the airshow is watching the general aviation arrivals.
Otherwise, there is nearly constant activity in the fly-past circuit along
runway 18/36. You will see all manner of homebuilts, classics and antiques
working that circuit during the day. No, you cannot simply take your airplane
up and fly by; there is an involved briefing by EAA officials so that the
number of airplanes in the pattern is limited and safe operations are
stressed. Often, someone on the PA system will talk about the airplane in
which you are interested and give some details, or tell you how to get more
Each afternoon the EAA puts on a major airshow. The
EAA AirVenture web site includes a schedule.
It is preceded by additional, usually warbird, fly-by activity. The airshow
runs several hours during which the airport is closed. The length of the show
does vary and is published in a number of locations. The second-best seats are
at the edge of the flight line and tend to start to fill up about an hour
before the show starts. Not to worry. You can still get a piece of earth on
which to sit and see everything at the last minute.
Make sure you have something to cover the back of your neck. You will be
facing east and the afternoon sun will turn the most staunch liberal into a
redneck. Bring sunscreen. While there is not supposed to be food and drink on
the flight line, I strongly recommend you bring some plastic containers of
water, but keep them firmly in hand so they do not become litter or a
projectile. The airshow is long enough that there is a danger of dehydration
on warm days.
airshow performers are usually nothing short of incredible. They are not paid
at AirVenture. Give them lots of applause when they are driven down the flight
line, they are the best of the best in this country.
Airshow announcing is awful. The performers usually bring the announcers
that have been giving their patter to the rubes on the county fair circuit all
summer. The result is laughable at AirVenture. Every year those who suffer
through the announcing on the flight line get to hear announcers mis-count the
number of stops in a twelve or sixteen point hesitation roll, call a snap roll
a Lomcevak, do some half-wit routine of making a telephone call to the
airplane in flight or endlessly repeat "...as he pulls the stick back,
trading airspeed for altitude..." until you want to go postal and take
out the announcer.
A request was made of the EAA some years ago for an "announcer
free" zone on the flight line. It was denied. Someone needs to point out
to the announcers that they are speaking to a sophisticated audience who wants
only to hear the name of the performer, the type of aircraft and, perhaps, the
upcoming maneuver. Then, all we want to hear is the aircraft. Sadly, if you
sit on the flight line, that desire is generally hopeless.
On an average of once in four or five years there is an airshow act which
causes even the most jaded onlookers to gasp in amazement. In the early '70s
it was a young kid, Gene Soucy, doing knife edge to knife edge snaps the
length of the runway at about ten feet of altitude in his S1 Pitts; in the
'80s it was the Italian Air Force team doing things in jets no one thought
possible. It didn't happen in the '90s. If you are very lucky, you will be
there for one of those years we're (over)due for another one.
Unfortunately, every few years EAA brings in some act which bombs abysmally
at an otherwise stellar airshow. For a while it was the clown or drunk or old
woman who winds up flying a Cub by "mistake." Recently it has been a
truck with old, straight-pipe jet engines on the back with one-stage
afterburners which proves anything will go fast if enough fuel is shoved
through it. As part of its routine it "races" a slow airplane.
Ten-year-old boys seem to like it. While noisy, it does provide a good time
for aviation enthusiasts to take a Port-A-John break.
Those who go to AirVenture year after year know the best seats in the house
for the airshow are not on the flight line. They do one of two things during
the airshow: Either they hit the vendors and Fly Market while the crowds are
thin, or, get together with friends at a convenient campsite and sit back with
a cold beverage and, perhaps, a hand-held aircraft radio, and enjoy the show.
Some tune in the local Oshkosh radio station which broadcasts the airshow,
just so they can hear a particularly annoying announcer, then take great
pleasure in turning him off.
heroes of AirVenture are not the airshow pilots or EAA brass. They are the
women and men who stand in the heat and rain and help out in some manner. They
walk wings, they give out information, they drive water wagons, they help, and
help, and help some more. There are never enough volunteers. Ever.
If there is any way you can somehow volunteer for a day or two while you
are at AirVenture, the EAA will welcome you and other convention-goers will
thank you. There are a couple of pretty-well marked volunteer areas you can
visit should the notion strike while at AirVenture. Or, you can check out the
Volunteer page on the AirVenture web site and sign up online or call the
phone number listed on the page. Either way, the nice folks will set you up in
an area which interests you.
Once you have volunteered, you will discover two things: You got more out
of the convention than those who did not help out and you are qualified to be
the picture in the dictionary for the definition of "pooped."
Do some planning before you start up. IFR departures can be a pain in the
whatsis. If weather allows, it is a great deal easier to go out VFR. The IFR
Procedures NOTAM has the IFR departure procedure. To help assure you
are not directed to the wrong line, put a sign in your windshield stating
whether you are VFR or IFR.
Please, again, pull your airplane out of its parking spot and turn it
ninety degrees before starting. Be considerate of others at all times.
Be patient, there may be dozens of folks trying to get out at the same
time. Lines to the departure runway can be long, and it is often necessary to
do the zipper bit as two lines of aircraft converge, so be polite. Everyone
will get out. After all, we'd like to think we have a little more on the ball
than the road ragers on the freeways. Yelling at the folks with the wands can
be counter-productive. Besides, you never know which ones are with the FAA and
decide to violate you for stupidity or aggravated stupidity.
Oftentimes, waiting to leave until about 45 minutes after the airshow is
done means you don't wait in line to get out.
Be extra patient for IFR departures. This is the one area where the EAA and
FAA just don't have it together IFR releases have been taking from one to
Everyone Is Watching:
Plan on having either the left or right half of the runway for your
takeoff, so be able to keep your airplane straight on the ground and tracking
straight once off. There will be other airplanes near, some faster, some
slower. So, do not make any sudden moves. A lot of people are watching the
departure show, thus, if you do something dumb, it will be seen and probably,
There are max altitude restrictions on many of the departures because
arrivals are coming in over the departure path. Take the time to review them,
and have everyone in the airplane be as observant as possible. Remember the
rules on overtaking slower airplanes. Make your turns gently, because as you
overtake someone, someone else may be blowing past you.
promised I'd tell you how you tell the low-time pilots at OSH. They are the
ones with all the patches and pins on their clothing or hat. It's a hoary
axiom of aviation in general, and OSH in particular, that the flight time and
experience level of the pilot is inversely proportional to the number of
patches and pins decorating his/her apparel.
Oshkosh has gotten so big, so commercial and so far away from the low-key
airplane-watching airshow it used to be, that I keep telling myself I will not
go back next year. (Unfortunately and perhaps for these reasons, people are
staying away attendance has been dropping.) But, every year after it's
over, I think about again getting together with a lot of friends from all over
the country that I only get to see at OSH, seeing the many things I want to
see, and watching airplanes I would not otherwise get to watch, and I make
plans to return.
I will probably plan to arrive IFR, because I know the variability of
summer weather in the Great Lakes. I will not be found where announcers may be
heard during the airshow. I will bring lots of food and buy ice and other
necessities on arrival. I will wear very good walking shoes. If you happen to
see Aztec N448VP, I may be in a lawn chair, with a cold one. Stop by, I'll
pour you one, too, and we'll talk flying.
Finally, as a personal favor, please don't shut off your flying brain when
you come to OSH. Don't go stupid and auger in on the way to (or from). The
media types will cast more aspersions on general aviation because you were
foolish and I will not remember you fondly. I'd much rather hand you a cool
one during the airshow.