Quick OSH22 Update

Hello readers! You might be wondering why I’ve only done one blog post so far at Airventure 2022. Don’t worry – there’s more coming! In the meantime, however, I am posting a TON of content over on twitter. No twitter account? No problem! Just click here to check out all the action.

Parking Airplanes & Feeling Fisk-y

Civil Air Patrol identifies and records every plane that lands.

It’s that time of year again! The annual gathering of the aviation faithful begins today at EAA’s Airventure in Oshkosh Wisconsin. Once again I arrived early to soak in the atmosphere and to volunteer with Flight Line Ops parking airplanes in the North 40.

Last year I assisted in the camping area. I asked for a simple assignment and they gave it to me – stand on the taxiway and point airplanes down whatever row they were filling. Easy! This year, however, my friend Hillel, his son Jacob and I were assigned to park planes in the Aircraft Parking Area. Located near the Weeks Hangar, this is a grassy, no-camping area for those who have accommodations elsewhere and just need a place to park.

This was a very different operation from parking planes in camping. For one thing, our team was much smaller. For another, the parking rows are shorter and planes don’t get packed in as tightly. I mostly stood out near the taxiway and directed planes down a row to Hillel and Jacob, who either positioned them in a parking spot or stopped them and pushed the plane in tail-first. (Known as “tailing” this method allow for many more airplanes to be parked together in a row. )

The EAA plane has an entourage.

However, there was one instance where both Jacob and Hillel were busy and an airplane arrived to be parked. One of the other team members pointed it down a row and I realized I was going to have to marshal it into a spot. By myself. Me. Um… wait, what? How is this happening??? I didn’t have time to think about it – I just stood where the plane needed to be and started motioning them forward. I stopped them when they were in position, signaled for them to cut the engine. Then I did a little happy dance when I realized that the were in the right place and no one died. Yay! Go me!

I parked this plane!

After our parking shift we decided to make the pilgrimage to Fisk. I had never been there before and was super exicted to see it. For those who aren’t familiar with the process for flying into Oshkosh during Airventure, it’s unique. Whitman Field transforms from a smallish airfield to one of the busiest airports in the country. 10,000 airplanes fly in for the week. That much traffic would quickly overwhelm radio frequencies and become a huge burden on local controllers. So the FAA brings in controllers to manage the event. They take over the tower for the week. They also manage the approach to Osh from a hut in the middle of a field. Yes, I’m serious. (And don’t call me Shirley.)

The amazing pink-shirts!

I won’t go into the whole procedure – I encourage you to read the Airventure Notice and watch some videos posted by those who have flown in. The last step before arriving at Osh is to cross over Fisk. Controllers with binoculars and a radio identify each plane as it approaches. They call on the radio ask the pilot to acknowledge by rocking their wings. Then they give instructions about what to do next. Sometimes they clear planes to continue the approach. Or sometimes they’ll turn them and send them back into one of the holds to get back in line.

Being able to sit in the grass, listen the the controllers and watch the planes on approach rock their wings was nothing short of amazing. Getting so many airplanes through the airspace and to the airport is a masterpiece of choreography. I have listened the frequency on LiveATC, but being there, listening and watching gave me a whole new appreciation for what they do and the challenges they face.

That’s a lot of airplanes!

Now I’m off to explore all the amazing things scheduled for Day One. Or at least, as many as I can. No one can see it all. Trust me – I’ve tried. Stayed tuned for more LIVE from Osh 2022!

F-16 at sunset.

ATC Zero

From zero to hero.

On a recent Thursday I found myself with a few minutes available for plane spotting after work. I knew that United’s Star Alliance livery had landed earlier, so I pulled up Flightaware to check the departure time. The first thing I noticed was that there were a lot of planes in holding patterns. And there was a note in red indicating that inbound flights were being held at their origin cities for at least the next half hour.

I glanced up at the sky. It was a nice day, partly cloudy. No storms. Light wind. The weather shouldn’t be causing any delays. I looked over at the south runway. There were no signs of any issues – no paving crews or ARFF vehicles. I walked back to my car and pulled out my scanner. The frequencies were suspiciously quiet. I began to wonder… could the airport be ATC zero?

No tower? No problem!

ATC zero means that there are no controllers on duty so the field is treated as uncontrolled. The most common reason for an airport to be ATC zero these days is covid. The tower and tracon are shut down so they can be thoroughly cleaned. This was not the first time it has happened at my airport. However, it was the first time it has happened during the busy travel season.

I saw some plane spotting friends by the north runway and they confirmed my suspicions. The airport was indeed ATC zero. One of the Centers (probably Indianapolis Center) was handling approach control, but anyone wanting to land or take off had to follow the same procedures used at uncontrolled fields, which involves calling out your position and intentions on a common frequency, and monitoring that frequency for other planes in the traffic pattern with you.

No tower – no problem here either!

General aviation and business jet pilots tend to have more experience with uncontrolled fields. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the small planes that were coming and going during this time seemed to be pretty comfortable with the situation. Some of the commercial airliners, however, were clearly a bit less familiar with the procedures, as evidenced by one pilot who initially carried on with calling the tower, even though no one was in it.

I kept an eye on the Star Alliance plane while chatting with the other spotters. I was only half listening to the scanner, so we were all surprised to see a Southwest flight on short final suddenly turn to the south. It was quite unusual to see a commercial airliner make a turn so close to the airfield. In fact, I’ve never seen anything like it in the hundreds (thousands?) of hours I’ve spent watching planes at my airport. Then one of the other spotters saw the reason – a Cessna just crossing the runway threshhold.

In the 360 turn.

The faster jet had gotten uncomfortably close to the smaller plane. I was pretty sure I heard the Cessna call out its position. Did the Southwest pilots miss the transmission? The Cessna landed and taxied off the runway while the Southwest flight did a 360 and got back onto the approach.

I got to wondering about the incident. The two planes seemed awfully close together. Did someone screw up? The next day I pulled up Live ATC to see if it could shed more light on what had happened. Turns out the Cessna did call out its position and the Southwest pilots heard it. The Southwest pilots continued to check in with the Cessna as both got closer to the field. Eventually the Southwest pilots realized they were catching up too fast and they announced their 360 turn.

Different Cessna. Different day.

So, just how close did the two planes get? When Southwest entered the pattern and called in, they were 15 miles out. The Cessna at that time claimed to be on “short final.” Southwest made calls at 11 miles out, 7 miles out and 5 miles out. At this point the Cessna called that they were still on short final. Southwest asked them to specify the number of miles and the Cessna said two, then amended that to a mile and a half. A few seconds after that Southwest announced their turn “at the inner marker.” Best guesstimate then is a three mile separation, possibly a little less. I believe this is within the regs… but it definitely looked closer than usual to me.

Ultimately, good communucation and situational awareness kept this from being an incident. Shortly after Southwest landed, the ATC tower re-opened and resumed control. It took a while for them to get everything sorted but I’m willing to bet no one complained. And the few minutes I had for spotting? Well it turned into a couple of hours. But I did finally catch that Star Alliance livery!

Yep, I stuck the departure.

A World Away Close to Home

As everyone knows by now, there is a war going on in Ukraine. It’s a war that affects us all to one degree or another. But I didn’t really expect it to impact me at work very much. After all, our traffic is mostly domestic, with a few flights to Canada and Mexico mixed in. At least that’s the case at the passenger airport where my office is. Just down the road, however, is our cargo airport. It accepts flights from all over the world – including Ukraine and Russia.

When it comes to airplanes, I do not discriminate – I love them all! I marvel at the engineering and their capabilities. Flying is magic! I love seeing the different liveries and configurations and people who fly them. This is why I love the cargo airport so much. And why I need to get down there more often.

The most challenging aspect of my job typically involves invoicing – figuring out who to bill and how to get the invoice to them. In this regard I’ve run into issues with Ukraine and Russia before. There used to be an airline called Ruslan which was run jointly by the two countries. It ceased to exist in late 2016 leaving me scrambling to figure out who to bill for their final charges.

Since then both Antonov (Ukraine) and Volga Dnepr (Russia) have been fairly regular visitors. I love to see them come in because they both fly the AN-124, which is an incredibly impressive airplane. I’ve gotten up close and personal with a couple of them and have been awe-struck every time.

During the pandemic, however, their visits stopped. Perhaps they didn’t have any cargo for our area. Or maybe covid restrictions kept them away. Whatever the cause, the plane spotting community missed them. So you can imagine the excitement in mid-February when Volga Dnepr returned.

Then Russia attacked Ukraine. And sanctions were imposed upon Russia. Suddenly things got complicated. And in the midst of it all I had to send an invoice for FBO services to a Russian airline. Um… awkward!

At most airports the FBOs are independent operators. At our cargo airport, however, the airport authority runs the FBO. How does the billing work? Well the FBO keeps track of all the flights and the services provided. This includes things like turn fees (the cost of unloading cargo and then loading the outbound freight), lavatory services, de-icing, GPU usage, pushback services and fueling. The FBO also arranges catering for outbound flights and transportation to and from hotels for the crews. The details are compiled into a spreadsheet and sent to me at the end of the month. I then create invoices and send them to the responsible parties.

In the case of Volga Dnepr, we bill them directly for FBO services, but their fuel billing goes through another provider. We received an email from the fuel provider last week reminding us that they are required to abide by all laws and sanctions that have been imposed as a result of the conflict.

So what does all this mean? Well… I’m not holding my breath on receiving payment from either Volga or the third party fueling company any time soon. Perhaps not ever. I put a poll up on twitter about this situation. The results suggest most people agree with my assessment. I’ll have to send another invoice to Volga later this month for landing fees. In the meantime, I’ll be praying for peace.

💙💛🌻💙💛🌻💙💛

Lessons from the Window

It has been almost a year since I moved to my desk by the window. As expected, it has been AMAZING. Even though I’m no stranger to the activity on the airfield, there are still some things I’ve learned from this new perspective.

Yes, I CAN Get My Work Done

Let’s get this out of the way first. It has been suggested that I might be so fascinated by the airfield activity that I won’t get anything done. Nope. I’m actually a good multitasker – I can work and keep an eye outside at the same time. Plus I’ve perfected my camera grabbing technique so I can go from tedious spreadsheet to amazing airplane pics in just a couple seconds.

Airbuses and RJs and Boeings… Oh My!

My desk is right behind gate 21 and I can also see gate 19, both of which are leased by American Airlines. They mostly park A319s and E175s out there. However every now and then a CRJ shows up. The CRJ200 is probably my favorite because compared to the others it looks like a little toy plane. To connect to the jetbridge they have to lower the steps, which makes it look even more like a toy. As passenger numbers have increased American has started to bring back the 737s. It makes for a nice mix of planes through-out the day.

I Hope It’s Worth the NOISE!

It’s no secret that the airfield is a noisy place, but I have a whole new appreciation of what that means. Let’s start with the jetbridges. Every time they move, alarms go off that sound just like old fire alarms or school bells. Then there are the APUs. Most aren’t noticeable, but every now and then a plane shows up with a loud, whiny APU. Of all the airfield noises, this one makes me the most crazy. Ground support vehicles aren’t exactly quiet either. The Air Start Cart can make quite a racket. And did you know tugs have horns? Oh yes. Beep. Beep. Beeeeeeeeep!

Special Liveries

I see a lot of American and Southwest airplanes from my desk because both have gates on the south side of the airfield. By happy coincidence, both airlines also have a number of special liveries. Southwest has the most flights so it isn’t surprising that I see multiple special liveries a week. They have a new one called Freedom One that I’m quite fond of. My favorite thing, however, is when American’s PSA livery parks at gate 21. It’s hard not to smile back when there’s an airplane smiling in the window at you.

The South Side is the Best Side

My desk looks out at the south runway, which is the longer of the two and both FBOs are on this side of the airfield. This makes for a wide variety of airplanes for me to enjoy. Even when the south runway is closed, if 28 Right is in use then most planes will have to taxi by my desk to get to it. Win-win! This dramatically increases my ability to catch the resident P-51. Nothing makes a work day better than a warbird!

Mighty Military

When I combine a desk view with Flight Radar 24 or ADSB Exchange plus Live ATC, then not even the military can sneak by me. A few months ago I managed to catch a C-130 and a KC-135 doing practice approaches, followed by a C-17 and TWO C-5s which landed at the airport to pick up cargo. All this in ONE DAY!

Snow Cool

If you’ve looked at my older posts then you know I’m fascinated by winter operations. Now I have a front row seat to watch the snow warriors get it done. From plows on the runways to deice trucks to mini snow pushers on the ramp, I get to see all the action.

Upside Downside

If you ask my coworkers what they don’t like about being by the windows they’ll tell you two things – it can get very cold on cloudy winter days and every now and then it smells like jet fuel. They have a point about the cold. I keep a stack of extra sweaters, jackets and even gloves to wear at my desk. As for the jet fuel… well you know me – I love the smell of Jet A in the morning!

You Can’t Get There From Here… Yet

So you’ve been looking for a non-stop flight to your favorite vacation destination and discovered, to your dismay, that none exist. What? How can this be? Lots of people travel to this place. Surely the airport can just ask the airlines to offer non-stop service, right? Uh… well, no. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way.

The process of establishing new non-stop service can require quite a bit of behind-the-scenes work that can take years to complete. Although I don’t get involved until it is time to start billing, I’ve asked my friends in Business Development a million questions which they have been kind enough to patiently answer. It can be a complicated process, but here’s a look at some of the basics.

The “Easy” Way

Sometimes one of the airlines currently operating at the airport decides to add a new route based on their own research and goals. They already lease gates and counter space. They already have ground crew and ticket agents. There’s nothing that the airport needs to do so… Done! Gee, that was easy!

The “Somewhat Easy” Way

Sometimes a new (or new to us) airline will decide to include us in their route structure. These decisions are usually based on anticipated demand and their ability to operate profitably. They will request specific details about our passengers, facilities and costs which they will review to make a determination about whether to proceed or not.

Once an agreement is reached, the airport will make sure that all the necessary space, equipment and signage is in place for the airline to operate. It takes a bit of effort to coordinate, but over-all this is a pretty simple way to add a new destination to our collection.

The Harder Way

When an airline wants to add a route, it usually happens. When someone else wants an airline to add a new route… well that’s a different story. Sometimes the Airport Authority’s own research will identify an underserved destination. Sometimes the local business community or government entities will identify a need and inquire about adding service. The Business Development team scruitinizes travel data from the Department of Transportation which, among other things, includes the ultimate destinations of all our passengers who took connecting flights. They look for trends try to confirm that there are enough people traveling to specific destinations to perhaps entice an airline to start flying there.

The airport will then approach the airlines with the data they have collected to try to convince them to add a route. We already have relationships with many airlines so these conversations likely begin with some phone calls. The team will also fly to airline headquarters to make their case in person. Pre-covid there were conferences in which a number of airlines and airports would attend and then there would be a series of short, private meetings during which airports could present their cases. A coworker referred to this as “speed dating for airlines.” The airport would get to meet with several airlines at once, but there wouldn’t be a whole lot of time for discussion.

Incentives

It can be quite expensive to start a new route. It takes time for it to become established and to develop the load factors needed to be profitable. This is where incentives come in. Airports and other entities will offer discounts or waive fees to offset some of the initial costs. This can be a tricky topic since there are some pretty strict rules around what kinds of incentives airports are allowed to offer. Some states will sweeten deal by adding in financial incentives of their own. Even business organizations will sometimes come together and pool funds to be able to offer a finacial incentive to try to get a coveted business destination onto the departures board.

Strings Attached

Even if there is a strong incentive package involved, the airline still has some bills to pay. We typically require a deposit which represents a portion of the amount we expect them to pay for things like rent once the incentive period is over. And they have to offer the agreed upon routes for the agreed upon length of time. If the airline decides to terminate the route early, they could be asked to pay back some or all of the incentives they were given.

Unsurpringly, it can sometimes take years of discussions before an airport is able to land a coveted route. We spent at least five years securing a non-stop flight to Seattle. The quest for a flight to Europe has been going on for a decade or more.

So what’s a passenger to do? Well keep traveling to your favorite destination. The more people who fly there, the more attractive it becomes for an airline to start non-stop service. Be patient – these things take time. Be realistic – some routes are just never going to be non-stop. And it wouldn’t hurt to learn to love connections, at least for now.

Osh21: Service and Inspiration

Photo courtesy of Hillel Glazer

It has been over a week since I returned from Airventure 2021 and I’m still in recovery mode. Osh is like that. It overwhelms your senses. It’s not just every type of airplane you ever wanted to see all in one place at the same time, it’s 10 or 15 examples of every type of airplane you ever wanted to see. Plus hundreds of other planes you didn’t realize you wanted to see. It’s exhausting – but in the best way possible.

Service emerged as a major theme for me this year. This is perhaps in part because I volunteered for the first time. I got an up-close look at some of the people who put in countless hours of work to make Airventure happen. Trust me, for every volunteer you see – parking cars, on the flight line, driving trams – there are many more behind the scenes that you know nothing about. Airventure would not happen without them.

Service was also front and center on Boeing Plaza. Many of the aircraft on display belong to non-profit organizations providing care around the globe. The Orbis Flying Eye Hospital (MD-10) is not just a place where sight-restoring surgeries take place, but it is also an education center where doctors in remote locations are trained to treat various eye problems.

Samaritan’s Purse (DC-8) delivers portable hospital facilities and personnel where ever help is needed. You can find them assisting during natural disasters and they even helped out in covid hotspots during the worst of the pandemic. Samaritan Air (sea plane) transports people from remote parts of Indonesia to medical facilities for treatment. A five day journey by canoe becomes a two hour ride by plane.

This year marked the first time that Airventure allowed anyone 18 and under to attend for free. Think about that for a moment. How many other events do the same? I guarantee you there aren’t many. The benefits to the aviation community are huge. Where will future pilots, mechanics, controllers, flight attendants, airport operations personnel, etc. come from if children aren’t exposed to the industry? And what better place to learn about every facet of aviation than Airventure?

But perhaps what stood out to me the most are ordinary people doing ordinary things which turn out to be extraordinary. For example, take Jennifer Duffer who is a teacher at Montgomery HS in Texas. Her engineering students built an airplane. No, not a model. Not a piece of a plane. An entire functioning airplane. And Ms. Duffer flew it to Oshkosh!

Her school is participating in the Eagles Nest Project which provided a Vans RV 12 light aircraft kit for the students to assemble. Ms. Duffer, along with a group of mentors, helped her students learn the principals of aviation as well as how to use tools, how to work together, how to read schematics, how to communicate, etc. Eventually the plane will be sold to buy the next kit for the next round of students to build. How cool is that? And what an amazing thing to put on a resume or a college application!

As you can tell, after two years away it was beyond good to be at Osh again. I missed my aviation family so much! Yes, the airplanes were amazing, but only because PEOPLE made them so. Likewise it is the people – old friends, new friends, volunteers, ambassadors and even passionate school teachers that make Airventure special. If you’ve never experienced that kind of aviation community magic, don’t put it off any longer. Make plans now for Osh22. Hope to see you there!

Want more stories from Osh21? Check out the Flying and Life Podcast for additional coverage!

Old Crow, the Dragon Lady and 20K Steps per Day

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile then you know: I’m a stalker. No, not people. I stalk airplanes. And when it comes to Osh there’s one airplane in particular that is the object of my attention: Old Crow. There are actually two airplanes with that name. I stalk the silver one.

I came by this obsession honestly enough. First of all, Old Crow is a P-51 Mustang. That automatically makes it amazing. Secondly, this particular plane (a tribute to the one flown by Bud Anderson) was originally owned and refurbished by Jack Roush of NASCAR fame. I actually had the extreme good fortune of spending an hour or so chatting with Mr. Roush in his motorhome at a race in Richmond a few years ago. We mostly talked about cars, but I couldn’t help noticing the P-51 models that he had on display.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, Old Crow lives at least half the year at my airport. The current owner keeps many of his toys at the FBO. (In fact, this gentleman’s airplane collection is one of the best things about working where I do.) It is not unusual to see Old Crow out and about, which is always the highlight of my day. Sadly, I’m always watching from a distance – usually the top of the parking garage.

However, at Oshkosh all that changes. Old Crow usually sits on display with the rest of the mustangs in the warbird area. I can walk right up to it and say hello. I can take a close look at that big propellor, marvel at the Merlin engine, and rest in the shade of its magnificent wings. Getting to visit with Old Crow is always a highlight of my visit to Osh.

In other news I finally got to see the U-2 yesterday. Oh my goodness what an airplane! It did several loops around the field and a couple of low passes. This particular one has two cockpits. Can you imagine what a ride along would be like? Wow! (Check out the Mythbusters episode in which Adam gets to do just that.)

For those of you wondering, my current step count after three days of the show (and two days of pre-show) is 86,371. This is actually a little bit lower than expected. That’s in part because the show was cut short yesterday due to bad weather. I’ll see if I can make up for it today. After all, I have a mustang to stalk!

FLO and the Moose: Osh is BACK!

After two years of waiting, EAA’s Airventure is back! And if the Osh pre-game is any indication, it’s going to be one heck of a week. First of all, someone was crazy enough to allow me on the airfield with marshalling wands. And someone else was crazy enough to allow me on the flight deck of a very large airplane while it was under tow. Yes, you read that correctly!

A few weeks ago my friend Hillel helped me sign up to volunteer on the flight line, parking aircraft in the North 40. I’ve always wanted to give it a try, but have been a little bit hesitant. I mean we’re talking about being in close proximity to spinning propellers! But I reviewed the training materials and reported for duty on Sunday morning. We attended a pre-shift briefing, then hustled out to get into position before the Mooney mass arrival.

The more experienced crew took charge of actually positioning planes into the parking spaces. They also placed experienced volunteers at the entrance to the parking area to guide planes in. My responsibility was to stand at the end of a row and, when instructed, marshal planes into the row so they could be parked.

Once the Mooneys were in we switched to parking general camping airplanes. Since the available spaces were pretty far down, I stood about half-way between where the planes exited the taxiway and where the available spaces were. Another volunteer turned the plane towards me, and I pointed them down towards Hillel, who then turned them into the appropriate row to be parked.

It was sunny, the airplanes were amazing, I was in the heart of the action… I LOVED it! I will definitely do it again. If you’ve ever thought about volunteering, I highly recommend it.

But something EVEN COOLER happened on Saturday, and it also involved marshalling an airplane. Well… sort-of. Shortly before Osh I found out that the C-17 going on display on Boeing Plaza was from my friend Rick’s unit – and he was going to be flying it in. He knew that Hillel and I were FLO volunteers and jokingly told us that if we were going to marshal him in to be sure to use giant foam fingers.

So what did I do? I acquired a pair of large, red, foam fingers, of course! As luck would have it, I arrived at Osh just at the same moment the C-17 did. I got to the plaza in time to see the plane stop so they could hook up a tug. I couldn’t marshal it, but I COULD put on the foam fingers and wave. So that’s what I did. I waved and hollered and just generally made a fool of myself.

Suddenly a young man in uniform appeared. “Are you Jennifer?” Uh-oh! Am I in trouble? “Rick says you can come with me.” So I followed him over to the airplane. The steps were down and I expected to see Rick waiting outside. He wasn’t. The young man gestured to the steps and told me to go on up. I climbed into the cargo area. The young man gestured to another set of steps and again told me to go on up. Next thing I knew I was in the cockpit of the C-17!

Rick greeted me from the captain’s chair and told me to have a seat. Sit… here? In the cockpit? Of a C-17? While the plane is being towed? Eeeeeeee!!!! The crew was at work so I sat down, kept quiet and stayed out of the way, but inside I was completely freaking out. I got to ride along as the 911th Air Wing and EAA put a really big airplane into a not-so-big space.

Being able to watch the coordination that happens on the flight deck was fascinating. I have a whole new appreciation for the trust that goes into being pushed back. The pilots cannot see a thing so they count on the crews to be on their game. I also got to take a really good look at the avionics and controls in the cockpit. I was impressed by how modern it is and also how roomy.

I have to give a HUGE shout-out to Major Rick Bell and the entire C-17 crew for allowing me to ride along. It was definitely one of those only-at-Osh moments that I will truly never forget. With a beginning like this, what could possibly happen next? Stay tuned!

Osh Returns

As I write this we are less than two weeks away from Airventure Oshkosh 2021. With covid still a factor, Osh is going to look a little different this year. Even so, I’m super excited to get back to what is always THE aviation event of the summer.

Travel Plans

If all goes well I intend to head out on the 23rd. I’ll spend the night somewhere along the way and should arrive on the Airventure grounds in the early afternoon of the 24th. My first stop is always the Quonset Hut to grab my media credentials. From there I’ll drop my gear off at my room and then head out to begin the adventure.

Osh Plans

I have compiled a tight schedule packed with specific events I plan to attend… JUST KIDDING! I have tried to stick to a schedule in the past and tossed my plans out the window ten seconds after arrival. Why? For me the magic of Osh is in all those unexpected moments that I never thought I’d get to experience. Like the time I interviewed one of the Blue Angels. And the time I visited the tower. And the time I got to be a passenger as a friend flew the Fisk Arrival. I’ve learned to keep my plans to a minimum and allow myself the freedom to jump into whatever opportunities come my way.

The Activity

That said, there are some things I’m hoping to do while I’m there. (But no promises!) I’ve been wanting to try volunteering on the flight line. Perhaps this will be the year I make that happen. There is a presentation about the Space Shuttle that I’m hoping to attend. I’m looking forward to seeing some of this year’s featured airplanes including the Orbis Flying Eye MD-10 and the Samaritan’s Purse DC-8. I know one of the pilots of the C-17 that is flying in on Saturday. I hope I can be there to watch his landing! And, of course, I’m especially excited to see the A-10 demonstration team.

The People

What really makes Osh special, however, are the people. It’s the one place where I can totally geek out and be surrounded by people who feel the same way. I have friends who I only see once a year at Airventure and I’m really looking forward to seeing them again. It truly is an aviation family reunion.

That said, there are a number of international friends who won’t be able to attend this year. It won’t be the same without them – they will be missed! So will Launchpad Marzari, who hosted the annual Podapalooza event at the Pipistrel booth. Launchpad passed away recently in a plane crash. Aviation is a small community and he was such a big part of it. His passing leaves a hole that will be hard to fill.

The Shoes

Oshkosh involves a lot of walking. I mean A LOT. Even when I take shuttles and trams as much as possible, I still find myself walking many, many miles. So even though I’m not one of those people who starts packing weeks (or days, or even too many hours) in advance, I HAVE been thinking a bit about my shoes. I’m breaking in some new pairs and I’m seeking out some new insoles. Hopefully when Osh week arrives, I’ll be ready.

The Question

So what about you? Will you be attending Airventure this year? If so, I hope to see you there! If you can’t make it this year, keep an eye on the many camera feeds that EAA puts up. I know it’s not the same as being there, but it will at least allow you to see some of the action. Also, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram for lots of pics and videos. And stairs trucks. Of course!