Epic Oshkosh 2015


One of many epic airplanes I encountered during my epic visit to Osh15!

If you’ve read my post Osh Dreaming in which I detail last year’s trip to EAA’s Airventure in Oshkosh then you know how much I was looking forward to the return trip this year.  Let me assure you, Osh 15 was every bit as epic as I had hoped it would be… and then some!  We spent more than twice as much time at Osh this year (3.5 days vs. 1.5 days last year) which means we had more than twice as much time to get into trouble… er, I mean to attend forums and workshops, visit exhibitors and drool over all those fabulous airplanes! And as if EAA knew I was coming, they also provided me with a history-making moment involving my favorite ground support vehicle – THE STAIRS TRUCK!


Look at that plane! And that one! And that one! Squirrel!

IMG_6266Here’s the thing that makes Oshkosh so ridiculously amazing – there are airplanes everywhere.  And I do mean EVERYWHERE.  From the moment you walk through the main gate you are surrounded by airplanes pretty much as far as the eye can see. This is completely wonderful… and totally distracting.  Prior to Osh I spent several days reviewing the list of forums, workshops, movie screenings, meet and greet events, etc. and carefully mapped out a schedule of things to do each day.  All that planning went out the window the moment I arrived. “OK, let’s head over to the forums and…  IMG_5989Oh my goodness look at the Airbus 350! Wow!  Look at the engines! Oooh look, they’re pushing it out to the flight line!  Holy cow – look at that take-off!  Oh… damn it!  I just missed three events I wanted to attend!”

That said, I did make it to Oshbash and I  attended a forum presentation by Gary Reeves of PilotSafety.org.  I also made it over to the Ultralights area and spent time in the Homebuilds section, neither of which I got to see last year.  I made a special point of getting back to the Vintage and Warbird areas – there’s just something special about those old planes. I’m glad that so many people have lovingly and carefully labored to restore them and keep them flying.


Yes, that’s me sitting in the cockpit of this way cool Sequoia Falco. My friend Slav introduced me to his friend Eric, who introduced me to his friend Randy, who bravely allowed me to sit in the plane. Only in Oshkosh!

The People Are Pretty Darn Cool Too…And Did I Mention Airplanes?

IMG_6174This year I had the extreme pleasure of finally getting to meet face-to-face with some people I had previously known only via twitter or from websites/blogs.  It’s true what they say – avgeeks really are like one big family.  It doesn’t matter that you’ve never met in person before, if you love airplanes then you automatically have something to talk about.  Actually, you have lots to talk about.  IMG_6049I had a couple of celebrity sightings, the coolest of which involved Kevin Lacey, star of the Discovery Channel show Airplane Repo.  Louise and I were headed to stake out a spot to watch the night air show when I happened to see him standing just off Boeing Plaza. I debated for a moment whether to go say hello and then decided what the heck – after all, it’s Oshkosh! He was very friendly and quite graciously agreed to a few pictures.  Actually, he vetoed the first set of pics that were taken and made me delete them because there was a car behind us.  He insisted we face the other way so there would be an airplane behind us instead.  Ah yes, a man after my own heart!


Air shows and Honor Flights and Concerts… Oh Heck Yeah!

IMG_6269The Air Shows at Osh 2015 were awesome, as always.  It’s hard to beat not one but TWO Harriers flying around.  And the F22 Raptor.  And a jet powered biplane. (No, I’m not kidding!) And warbirds, of course.  And the always-amazing night show, followed by fireworks.  But for me the most moving and heartfelt moment of Osh came when the honor flight arrived.  The veterans on board had spent the day in Washington DC and were welcomed back with  a water cannon salute as well as enthusiastic applause. Afterwards there was a concert featuring Gary Sinese and the Lt. Dan Band.  If you ever have a chance to to see this band, I HIGHLY recommend it!  They put on a great show and I danced like a fool through the whole thing.


Look! It’s a STAIRS TRUCK!!!! Oh yeah, and there’s an Airbus or something attached to it.

THE Most EPIC Moment At Oshkosh!

On the evening we arrived, Louise and I decided to wander through Boeing Plaza just to see what was on display.  I’m pretty sure there were lots of airplanes, but I didn’t notice them right away because I only had eyes for the not one, but TWO stairs trucks that were positioned on either side of the Airbus 350.  The stairs trucks were roped off and there were a lot of people around so I didn’t feel the time was right to attempt to get close. Instead I chose to bide my time and wait for an opportunity.  Which, as it turns out, happened the next day.  The Airbus apparently had other places to be so it flew away.  And in the few moments between when it took off and the next plane arrived, THIS happened:


We were surrounded by the most amazing collection of airplanes anywhere in the country and I was getting my picture taken with the stairs truck. Yes, I know.

Just as I was on the verge of making a dash for the door so Louise could snap a quick pic of me behind the wheel, a driver appeared, followed shortly by a FedEx Airbus A300F4. I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to get inside the stairs truck, but as it turned out I got to do something else which was almost (but not quite) even more excellent – climb the stairs!


And once I climbed those stairs I remembered the REAL reason why stairs trucks are so completely epic – they give you the ability to get to THIS:

IMG_6299That’s right – someone else was crazy enough to allow me into the cockpit of an airplane.  Louise had been in a cockpit once before when she was five. Since that gives her twice as much time on the flight deck as me, she got the Captain’s seat.  FedEx wisely had someone there keeping an eye on us. (Of course I couldn’t resist asking the poor guy about this button and that one and that one and that one.) It was truly an amazing experience I won’t soon forget!  But the absolutely most epic thing that happened to me at Osh 15 was this:


IMG_6307 (2)Thanks EAA! For all these reasons and many more, Oshkosh is my happy place. I had an AMAZING time and I can’t wait for Airventure 2016!

Those Marvelous Motorized Stairs

motorized stairsIt has been suggested that I may be a wee bit obsessed with the motorized stairs. Well who can blame me? I mean, who doesn’t love the stairs truck?  Wait… you don’t?  WHAT???  How is that possible? Mobile stairs are CLEARLY a marvel of engineering and usefulness!  Allow me to spread a little mobile stairs love by sharing some of the things that make it awesome.

The Beginning


Are you kidding me with this? Just when I thought the stairs truck couldn’t get any cooler!

I figured the best place to start would be to do a little research into the history of the stairs truck, so I went to a source that is above reproach, renowned for its solid, unbiased facts… OK, fine – actually, I went to Wikipedia. I thought some crazed stairs fan… I mean some learned historian would have taken the time to document the beginnings of such an important vehicle.  Wrong!  The only mention of the mobile stairs that I could find was a couple of sentences buried in the middle of an article about airport equipment. The stupid baggage tug gets higher billing! Heck, jet bridges get their own damn article! It’s appalling! I tried using a variety of search terms – mobile stairs, motorized stairs, stairs truck. Nothing! That’s does it – Wikipedia, you are dead to me!

Google Fail

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These sad little stairs aren’t motorized. What a shame!

Swallowing my disappointment, I turned instead to the mighty Google. Surely it will be filled with information about the storied past of the stairs truck! Sadly, no. I thought I was on to something when I came across AviationPro’s article on the history of ground support equipment, but they focus more on tugs and jet bridges than stairs. (Tugs and jet bridges again! I see tugs and jet bridges around all day and I’m telling you, they just aren’t that exciting!) After a bit more digging I was forced to conclude that the history of the mobile stairs is either lost to the sands of time or buried so far in the depths of Google that it will never see the light of day.

Historical reenactment

“This is the role I waited a lifetime for!”

Since Wikipedia and Google were no help and I’m feeling too lazy to do any real research, the following is a representation of how I think the invention of the mobile stairs went down. The setting is an Old Timey Airport many years ago. I picture Robert Duvall in the role of the Airplane Builder and Leonardo DiCaprio as the intrepid ramp agent.

Ye Olde Ramper: Wow! Nice plane!

Ye Olde Airplane Builder: Thanks! It is bigger and better than previous models and can carry more passengers. I didn’t bother with stairs though – they are heavy and annoying.  You’ll have to figure out some way of getting the passengers on and off.

Ye Olde Ramper: Like hauling a heavy, awkward ladder around? I don’t think so!  Hey, I have an idea – I’ll build a set of stairs onto the back of that old truck!

Um… OK, so maybe the history of the mobile stairs isn’t that exciting.  Then again, who would have thought that so much greatness would spring from such humble beginnings?

Still Not Convinced?


Look at how the mobile stairs stands out in a crowd! Is there a tug in this picture? Who cares!

I know some of you are thinking – OK, whatever. It’s just a truck with stairs on the back. What’s the big deal? Well to start with, the mobile stairs have the most unique look of all airport vehicles. No one can confuse the stairs with any other equipment. (Compare that to tugs which all look alike.) Secondly, motorized stairs are CLEARLY the most useful of all vehicles. Don’t believe me? Allow me to present the following list of totally cool things you can do with mobile stairs:

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Look at this nice collection of airport vehicles, all neatly parked. There is just one teeny little problem… NO MOBILE STAIRS!!!

– Attending an outdoor concert? Roll up in the motorized stairs and you’ll have the best seat in the house. Plus you can make some extra money by selling space on the lower steps.

– Love apple picking but hate having to fight crowds of people all going after the same apples on the lower branches? Drive up in a stairs truck you’ll be King/Queen of the orchard!

– Stuck on the second floor? Park the stairs truck near a window and you’ve got a handy escape plan. Is work stressful? Class boring? Spouse nagging? Just open the window and you’re outta there!

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This cat has just learned that some people do not love the motorized stairs. He is not amused. Also, he’s plotting to kill me.

– Speaking of that nagging spouse, if he/she is smart enough to nail the windows shut to prevent your escape, never fear – the stairs truck will make all those outdoor chores (painting, window washing, gutter repair) a breeze!

– Is the darn cat stuck in a tree again? You know if you try to climb up after it, the cat will only climb higher. The solution? Park the stairs truck near one of the lower branches and let the cat come down on its own. Just remember to tell the cat that under no circumstances is it to use the stairs. If you expressly forbid kitty from touching the stairs, it’ll make a beeline for them right away. Trust me on this.

Need More?

Perhaps these videos can convince you!

Motorized stairs, vs. stairs being pulled by a tug. One is CLEARLY superior.

I know what you’re thinking but I SWEAR I am not the airport employee referenced in this video.

But Wait, There’s Even More!

You’re probably starting to realize, however reluctantly, that the mobile stairs are more cool than you thought. Well hang on to your hats – a friend on twitter recently brought to my attention this picture of a mobile stairs BUS! I have no idea of it is real or not but who cares! Two words: Mind. Blown!!!

stairs bus