C-47 Ride – Keep ‘em Flying!

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Back in January I issued a challenge to myself to check out at least 5 general aviation airports that I haven’t been to before. The passing of my mother earlier this year forced me to put a lot of my plans on hold. As a result I haven’t been able to focus on the challenge as much as I would have liked. However recently I was able to add airport #3 to my list when I attended a cruise-in/fly-in at Zanesville Municipal Airport (ZZV).

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Adding another airport towards my goal was actually a secondary reason for wanting to attend this fly-in. The primary reason was that they were offering rides on a C-47. Normally the ticket price would have been around $200, however for this event they were offering a shorter version of the flight for less than half the price. How could I say no?

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The first thing I noticed upon arriving at ZZV is that there is a Republic F-105 Thunderchief on display out front. That’s right – this small, unassuming airport in the middle of nowhere has a totally bad-ass military plane sitting  outside the front door. That, my friends, is the GA airport equivalent of a mic drop.  Bam!

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Want!!!

Any time I have the chance to stop by an FBO, I always do. The FBO at ZZV is nicely appointed with the requisite comfy chairs, computer access and meeting rooms. The bathrooms were clean. The staff were welcoming. And they have the coolest weather vane EVER!  Seriously – I want one!

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There was a nice assortment of airplanes parked on the ramp, including a couple of bizjets and a stunning Great Lakes biplane. The star of the show, however, was Hairless Joe. Delivered to the military in 1945, this C-47 was too late to see service during WWII and so spent most of its life performing other roles. The Yankee Air Museum recently refurbished it, gave it a military paint scheme and named it Hairless Joe in honor of the C-47 that Lt. Col. Dick Cole flew in the China/Burma/India theatre.

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The C-47 is probably best known for its role during D-Day when it dropped around 13,000 paratroopers into Normandy. This was very much on my mind as I boarded the plane and took my seat, especially since Hairless Joe has a military seating configuration. This means we sat on benches along the sides of the plane rather than in seats bolted down the middle.

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I watched the engines fire up, and as we started to taxi could see the excitement on the faces of the people sitting around me.  I imagined how it must have been for the paratroopers on D-Day. I am sure there was excitement then too, but an entirely different kind.

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The flight involved a couple of laps around the airport traffic pattern, which meant lots of turns. There was also a fair amount of turbulence. The combination of the two was a bit unsettling for my stomach at first, but I focused on the view outside the window and that helped a lot. I looked across the left wing as the plane gracefully maneuvered through the sky and I thought again of the paratroopers who flew in these planes 75 years ago. Did they try to look out the windows too? Or were they so focused on the mission that they could think of nothing else?

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The flight lasted just under ten minutes. After we landed we were able to walk up to the cockpit and take a look at all the gauges and dials. As we disembarked we saw that people who hadn’t bought tickets for the flight were being allowed to climb the stairs and take a look around. There was a long line of people eager for a chance to visit the plane and touch history. It occurred to me how fortunate we are that there are organizations like the Yankee Air Museum who keep these planes flying.

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Four days later a B-17 owned by the Collings Foundation crashed at Bradley Airport in CT. Seven people were killed including both pilots and several passengers. The loss of life was devastating. The loss of the airplane was heartbreaking. The cause of the crash is still being investigated, but already there have been calls by some to end vintage plane rides.

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All airplanes require regular maintenance and  well-trained pilots. I believe that as long as the proper procedures are followed, vintage warbirds are as safe to fly as any other plane. There’s just something special about these old birds. They have character and personality that modern planes do not. Perhaps most importantly, they can bring history alive in a way that books and museums can’t duplicate. I hope they will continue flying for many years to come. Would I fly on one again if given another opportunity? Heck yes I would! In a heartbeat!

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Outdoor Engine Switcheroo

4CE6D16A-71B3-4FC9-A95B-C612029B1C08I see a lot of the smaller commercial airplanes around every day. I love them but let’s face it, seeing the same planes all the time can get a little boring. So it’s always fun when something new and different stops by. On a recent Tuesday morning I heard that a Boeing 767 had diverted with mechanical trouble the night before. The 767 might be a common sight at some airports but it is a rarity for us, so I made a point of searching it out.

I finally tracked it down at a gate on the east side of the airport. There were no obvious signs of trouble, but I’d heard that there were oil pressure issues and that it might require an engine change. I shrugged that off. The airline doesn’t have maintenance facilities here and the available hangars would be much too small. No, I figured they’d send a mechanic to patch it up enough so it could be flown to a base. No one would try swapping out engines on the ramp, Right?

1844742E-6323-411E-B61B-8E17EBDC7C28Wrong! When I checked on the plane the next day I found that it had been moved from the gate to a parking spot on the ramp. Sitting nearby, covered in protective wrap, was the unmistakable shape of an engine. What the… Oh my goodness! They really ARE going to swap engines on the ramp!

I have witnessed my fair share of gate-side airplane repairs. It isn’t unusual to find mechanics tinkering with engines or landing gear. I’ve even witnessed a nose cone swap. But changing engines on a B767 is a different story. You can’t just dispatch one guy with a wrench to take care of it. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit two of American Airline’s maintenance hangars, so I’ve seen the equipment that is usually needed to do this kind of job. How on earth were they going to pull this off outside?

39113392_UnknownI decided right then and there that I was going to stalk the heck out of this airplane. For the next several days I spent every spare moment watching as the work progressed. I got to the office early so I could check in before heading to my desk. I spent my lunch break outside. I stayed late after work. I was kind-of obsessed. OK, actually I was TOTALLY obsessed. How often does an engine change happen out in the open for the whole world to see?

The swap began when a small army of mechanics showed up with ladders and a big blue truck with a crane on it. I could see they had opened up all the panels that surround the engine and it looked like they were busy disconnecting things. They used the crane to lift the cowling off the front of the engine and place it on the ground. When I headed home Wednesday night, they were still hard at work.

IMG_4178When I returned Thursday morning I discovered that they had managed to remove the old engine before calling it quits the previous day. The plane looked pretty strange sitting there with one engine missing! It did not stay that way for long. By mid afternoon the new engine had been hung on the wing and when I left work Thursday night they were still busily reconnecting the hydraulic, fuel and electrical lines.

I wondered how long this engine swap would have taken and whether it would have been handled differently if they could have done it in a hangar. My friend Mike from the Flying and Life podcast put me in touch with AJ, a mechanic for a major legacy carrier in the US. AJ has done plenty of engine changes both at the maintenance facility and on the road. He walked me through the basics of the process and explained that a typical engine swap on a 767 takes around 10-11 hours.

39113904_UnknownAJ told me that weather presents the biggest challenge when working on the ramp. He has completed engine changes in the rain (which doesn’t sound like fun AT ALL). He also said that they will sometime construct a temporary shelter for protection while they’re working. If the weather is really bad they’ll stop work altogether. Equipment can present another challenge. If something breaks then a replacement will have to be brought in which can take time and cause delays.

39114464_unknown.jpgIn this particular case the mechanics were blessed with lovely weather and (apparently) no equipment issues. Friday morning I watched as they closed up all the access panels and began moving the ladders and cranes away from the plane. I had spent so much time watching the work that I felt really invested in the outcome. I wanted to see the engines start up! I NEEDED to see the plane take to the sky!

39114880_UnknownI spent the rest of the afternoon sweating it out as my desk. A departure time was scheduled and then pushed back and then pushed back again. That was the longest afternoon EVER. I dashed upstairs as soon as I finished work, just in time to witness the engine start. Hooray!

They let the new engine run for a bit and then they fired up the other one. Then the plane eased forward and began to taxi out to the runway. Now came the moment of truth: how would the new engine perform on departure? The plane rolled down the runway, lifted up into the sky, executed a graceful turn to the left and disappeared into the distance. Wow! From broken to restored again in less than three days – what an epic journey!  Major kudos to the mechanics involved – and to ALL the mechanics everywhere for all they do to keep planes flying safely.

Author’s note: A very big thank you to AJ and to all my mechanic friends on twitter for answering my many questions! Also, check out season 3, episode 14 of The Traffic Pattern Podcast where Derek Vento and I talk all things aviation!

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Seeing Red (Arrows)

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When I heard that the Red Arrows were coming to the United States I really hoped I’d be able to see them. It isn’t often that the famed British jet team makes the trip across the pond. An initial glance at their schedule was disappointing – none of the venues were close to me. Then I noticed Thunder Over the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Not only is the location near my mother’s house in Pennsylvania, but hello – it’s at the beach! Watch an air show while relaxing in the sand? Count me in!

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Then I saw that the show date was a Wednesday. Wait… Wednesday? Who holds an air show in the middle of the week? Awkward! Whatever – I wasn’t going to let that deter me.  I had to work Tuesday so I traveled late into the night to get to PA. Then I got up at the crack of dawn the next morning to drive another hour and a half to Atlantic City. Exhausting? Yes. But completely worth it because hello – it’s the Red Freaking Arrows!

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Atlantic City is… well, to be honest, it’s a not my favorite beach destination. I’ve always preferred the family-friendly seaside towns farther south over the glitter and grit of the casinos. As a result this was my first visit. I had no clue where to set my beach chair but by dumb luck I managed to situate myself at show center.

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As I waited for the show to start I couldn’t help but notice all the boats that were anchored just offshore. Watching the show from the beach was cool but watching from a boat must have been even cooler! I wondered how the event organizers maintained the required safety areas. Then I saw a Coast Guard ship keeping an eye on things.

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I realized pretty quickly that while the beach is a great place to watch an air show, it is not necessarily the best place to take photographs. The combination of the sun directly overhead and the glare off the water made the lighting pretty horrible. Then there was the wind, sand and the ocean spray that constantly threatened to muck up my camera lens. Still, the opportunity to get some pics of the Red Arrows made it worth the risk.

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The show began with the US Army Golden Knights Parachute Team. I noticed that one of them jumped with a British flag, which I thought was very classy. This was followed by some old favorites in the form of a refueling demonstration by a KC-135 and several F-16s and a very cool EC-130.

The next two performers were a bit of a surprise. First was a Shorts Tucano. The plane is small and fast and I struggled to get a good look at it. This was followed by the strangest jet I have ever seen. It had a twin tail and an odd, bulbous canopy. It was absolutely mesmerizing. I couldn’t take my eyes off it! I found out later that it was a de Havilland Vampire. After it completed its display, it was joined by the Tucano and they flew several passes together. They were an unexpected highlight of the show for me.

Then came the moment I had been waiting for – the Red Arrows! They started their display by approaching from behind the crowd and flying out over the ocean with red, white and blue smoke trailing behind.

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In many ways they reminded me of the Canadian Snowbirds, in part because there are nine of them and in part because they exhibit much of the same grace and beauty in their performance. However, they have a distinct style and flavor all their own. For one thing they fly trainers rather than fancy fighters like the American jet teams. For another the planes are red, which automatically makes them awesome. Then there’s the colored smoke. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but it brings a bit of splash and pizzaz to the performance that the other teams just don’t offer.

I wasn’t sure how the American audience filled with vacationers and families would react, especially since most were there to see the Thunderbirds. However it quickly became apparent that the Red Arrows were a hit with the crowd.  I think it is safe to say they gained quite a few new fans.

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What about the remainder of the show? Well I couldn’t tell you. I was just there for the Red Arrows and when they were finished, so was I. Was it worth traveling all that way, dealing with the crowds and the difficult photography conditions just to watch nine red planes put on a 20 minute show? Oh. Heck. YES! If you ever have the opportunity to see the Red Arrows, I strongly encourage you to go. I promise you won’t regret it!

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Rock Your Wings – Flying at Osh19

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As an airport employee, I am surrounded by airplanes pretty much all the time. And yet somehow I rarely get to fly in them. I haven’t flown commercially in nearly ten years. My one and only flight in a general aviation airplane was over three years ago. Seems ridiculous, doesn’t it?

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When my friend Mike (host of the Flying and Life podcast) found out that he could leave his campsite at Airventure, go for a flight, then return to the same camping spot, he immediately decided to give it a try. He asked if I’d be interested in going along. Wait… do I want to fly at Osh? During Airventure? The busiest airport in the world? THE FISK ARRIVAL? Are you kidding me??? OF COURSE I DO!

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One of the nice things about being fairly small in size is that I left room on the weight and balance chart for Mike to bring along a couple of other passengers as well. Our friends Dr. Steph (co-host of the Airline Pilot Guy podcast) and RH (co-host of the Opposing Bases podcast) were happy to join us. Both are pilots themselves and RH is also an air traffic controller. 

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To say I was excited would be an understatement. Even taxiing out to the runway felt like an adventure. The 18s were in use which meant we taxied along the primary flight line, right past Boeing plaza. I NEVER get tired of that view! Then I saw all the people along the edge of the airfield, watching the activity on the runways and I realized that we were about to become part of the show ourselves.

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There were a lot of planes in line to depart so we had to wait our turn. Finally we were cleared to take off. The next thing I knew we were headed down the runway and I could hear Mike doing his checks to confirm everything looked good. Then we were in the air. Such a great feeling to be off the ground! Flying free! Zipping along! And… getting passed by other planes that had taken off next-to and behind us. Fine, so Mike’s Musketeer isn’t the fastest plane ever. Who the heck cares! All that mattered is we were flying over Airventure It. Was. Spectacular.

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From there Mike flew south over Fond du Lac and then west to the southern end of Green Lake, which was where the approach into Oshkosh was starting on that day. We joined the approach and headed towards Fisk. Shortly after that came the moment I had been waiting for: the command from the Fisk controllers to rock our wings. I’ve heard them say it to a million other airplanes via LiveATC and I always wondered what it would be like. Let me tell you – it did not disappoint! And Mike did not mess around – he gave the wings a good, solid rock.

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The controller asked Mike if he had a runway preference. Mike requested the 18s. I found myself with a perfect view of Airventure as it came into sight below. Mike’s downwind leg provided another spectacular look along the flight line and at all the activity in the plaza. (That view just never gets old!) He was cleared to land on the pink dot and he made his turn to final.

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About that time we all noticed a plane sitting on the runway. Mike wondered aloud if it was going to hold in position until after we landed. Just then the tower controller came on the radio and with a sense of urgency told Mike to stay in the air, maintain his altitude and not descend. The controller directed us farther down the runway at which point he cleared Mike to land.  Which he did, nicely and smoothly and without breaking a sweat. Piece of cake!

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Oh my goodness that was tons of fun! And I learned so much – about following the NOTAM, about watching for traffic, and about how good friends can make great flight even better. Perhaps most importantly, I learned that three years between GA flights is far too long. Guess I need to do something about that!

Want more? You’re in luck! A flight with podcasters and writers naturally leads to lots of content.

Full in-flight audio can be found on the Opposing Bases podcast Airventure 2019 Bonus Episode #5.

A post-flight discussion with Mike can be found on the Opposing Bases podcast Airventure 2019 Bonus Episode #6.

And OF COURSE I took lots of video! Check it out!

 

 

Osh19 Memorable Moments

C1C17990-2FC8-49E2-B2EA-DD07C2196DB2Airventure is not a sprint – it’s a marathon. This year was no exception. I walked over 60 miles in 7 days. Every muscle in my body is sore. Even my eyelashes are exhausted. But it was so worth it! Here are just a few of the many memorable moments from the past week.

Visit to the upper deck of the UPS 747-8

The 747-8 has long been one of my favorite airplanes. Several fly into the cargo airport every week, but somehow I’ve never been able to see one up close… until now. UPS brought one of their brand-new 747s to Osh. Mike from the Flying and Life podcast interviewed the captain, after which we were not only able to tour the cargo area, but we were allowed to visit the upper deck, including the cockpit! Yeah, I freaked out a little. OK, a lot. I couldn’t help it – after all, she’s THE QUEEN!

Proficiency Center and Redbird Sim visit

Members of the media were given special access to the Pilot Proficiency Center on Thursday morning. I had never been in there before and was eager to check it out. I was impressed by the variety of simulators that were available, especially the crosswind simulator which my friend Glen was using when we arrived. Each of the pilots in my group were assigned to different instructors and selected different scenarios to try. As a non-pilot I really enjoyed watching them. I found I understood more than I thought I did about what the different gauges and readouts are for.

The Airventure 5K

I am not a runner. The only time you’ll catch me running is if there’s a plane flying over that I really want to see. Or if I’m being chased. Yet somehow I found myself signing up for the Airventure 5K. Needless to say, I walked. So did Pilot Pip and Captain Al from the Plane Safety Podcast. Not only that, we detoured for donuts mid-race. Despite our best efforts, we didn’t finish last. We’ll have to try harder next time! (I did, however, manage to be the slowest finisher in my age group.)

Planes, planes and more planes

EAA does a wonderful job of including all aspects of aviation at Airventure. From hot air balloons to model airplanes to drones – you can find them all at Osh. But let’s face it – airplanes are the stars of the show. And this year there was an exceptional number of amazing planes to see, including surprise visits from the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels. Even one of the Canadian Snowbirds stopped by. It is impossible to choose a favorite air show performer, but the A-10 demo team is near the top of my list.

This really just scratches the surface of my Airventure experience this year. I could write thousands of words and still not cover all the things I got to see and do. However, there was one Osh moment so special that it deserves a post all its own. I won’t spoil the surprise but let’s just say it involves good friends, an airplane and the words: “Rock your wings.” Details coming soon – stay tuned!

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Osh Love for a Lifetime

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My birthday is in September. However, for as long as I’ve been coming to Airventure, my mom sent my birthday check early.  She knew I’d like to have a little extra money to spend on my trip to Osh. My mom passed away a couple months ago, so there was no birthday check this year. However, she did leave me enough money to do something I’ve been wanting to do for some time now: become a Lifetime Member of  EAA.

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I’m not a pilot and I’ve never built a plane, so you might be wondering why on earth I’d want lifetime membership. At Airventure 2016 I got to see an A-10 fly for the first time. They are one of my most favorite planes and although I’d seen them on static display, I had never seen one in the air. I was so excited I was nearly in tears over it. I expected ridicule or funny looks from the people around me. What I got instead was complete understanding. I knew right then that I wanted to be a member forever.

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So, what are the perks of lifetime membership? Well I got a patch and a pin and a flashlight. I’ll be getting a plaque and a jacket with my name embroidered on it. I also get to have a new membership card with the photo of my choosing on it. Yikes!  How will I ever decide which one to use? Being a lifetime member also enabled me to get a couple of days of access to the lifetime pavilion. It’s a great place to sit in the shade, relax and watch the airshow.

 

Speaking of which, there have been some great airplanes at Osh so far this year. I got my first look at the KC-46 Pegasus. I also watched a UPS Boeing 747-8 taxi into Boeing Plaza. The wingtip went right over my head! I got to take a look at a prototype flying car. I have to admit that I am a bit skeptical about whether it can actually fly, but the company says they are close to the first test flight. It will be interesting to see what happens.

 

Of course, Osh isn’t just about planes – it is about the people as well. I’ve gotten to see so many old friends! It truly is an aviation family reunion. I especially enjoy watching new attendees take in Osh for the first time and fall in love with it just as I did. Who knows – maybe some of them will end up becoming lifetime members too.

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Show before the Show – OSH19

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not Christmas. I’m talking about Airventure Oshkosh, of course! It’s my happy place. The place where everyone understands me. The place of 10,000 airplanes. It is so much better than Christmas!

I arrived early once again this year.  Unfortunately, so did the rain in the form of a series of intense thunderstorms. It halted all arrivals and turned the Airventure grounds into a marsh. Needless to say I spent quite a bit of time in my car, waiting out the deluge.

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Once the rain stopped I made the first of what are sure to be many trips deep into the heart of Camp Scholler. Why? I have friends who are staying there in a rented RV. More importantly, they have my beer  And my cookies. My observations of Camp Scholler thus far:

– It’s huge.

– The people are super-friendly and will give you rides on their golf carts.

– Like the rest of Airventure currently, a good portion of it is under water.

– Did I mention that it’s huge?

15D1999E-DED7-4757-B8CA-86BD39920EB3Sunday I started off visiting the actual airport terminal. After all, this blog is called Tales From the Terminal so it seemed like a good idea to stop by. It was quiet. And small. But there’s an airplane hanging inside which automatically makes it excellent. I ran into a group of Airventure newbies who needed some advice on how how to get their wristbands and I was happy to point them in the right direction.

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The rest of the day was spent wandering the Airventure grounds watching airplanes. The arrivals have been much quieter this year because of all the rain – the aircraft camping areas are under water so none of the GA aircraft were allowed in until very late in the day. Thankfully there were still lots of amazing airplanes to see.

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The day ended at the Redbird Preflight Reception which was held at their exhibit tent just off the main plaza.  I got a chance to take a peek inside some of sims, which are all very nice. I also got a chance to catch up with many old friends who were also at the event.

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On Monday Airventure officially begins. I am super excited to see the A-10 and F-35 demo teams. I’m also looking forward to seeing the new KC 46 Pegasus tanker which is scheduled to arrive in the evening. Of course some of the best moments at Oshkosh happen completely unexpectedly.  I don’t know what adventure will come my way, but I’m ready so bring it on!

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Aviation Therapy

38311024_UnknownI set a goal for this year of at least two blog posts per month and I was doing pretty well… but then life events forced me to put writing on hold for a while. You see, my mother passed away somewhat unexpectedly at the end of May. Those of you who know me or who have followed this blog for a few years will remember that my father passed away back in 2016. Losing my mom means that both my parents are gone now, which means my brother and I face the added stress of dealing with my mom’s estate. Definitely not fun.

38312176_UnknownEveryone copes with grief in their own way. For some people the idea of returning to work after a loss might be unbearable. For me, however, going back to work was a lifeline. It allowed me to get back into a routine, but more importantly, it provided me with a much-needed daily dose of aviation therapy. And oh my goodness what excellent therapy it has been!

When I pulled into the parking lot on my first day back I noticed there was a large airplane sitting across the airfield, but I was too distracted to give it a lot of thought. However, when I got to my department I could clearly see an Atlas 747 sitting on the south ramp. Atlas always flies into the cargo airport – why was it at the passenger airport? Actually, who the heck cares!  I’m just so glad I got to see it.  (For those who are wondering, it was a military charter flight.)

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Photo by Andrew Stricker

That was just the start of several days of really great plane spotting. Some of the planes I got to see included:

A whole bunch of bizjets from Target Inc. (Target has great taste in airplanes!)

 

 

A KC-135 practicing touch-and-goes.

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A beautiful Cessna 195:

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Three big beauties headed to the cargo airport:

 

A sweet little Skylane:

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A Hondajet:

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A National Air 757:

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And perhaps best of all, two A-10s! Sadly I couldn’t get a good picture of them because of how they were parked. But that’s OK. Getting to see them at all was a huge treat that really lifted my spirits.

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However, the ultimate in aviation therapy is just a month away – Airventure Oshkosh.  Once again I plan to be there all week.  As always, I’ll be handing out bacon jerky at Oshbash so if you’ll be at Airventure on Tuesday, July 23, please join us.  No, not even 10,000 airplanes can make up for the loss of my mom.  But I can’t think of a better place to find my smile again.  Hope to see you there!38311936_Unknown

 

Lunch with Champaign Lady

IMG_1409Regular readers may recall that earlier this year I set a goal for myself (and anyone else who wants to play along) of checking out at least 5 GA airports not previously visited. That’s right- it’s the 2019 Airport Challenge! Recently I took a step towards meeting that goal by spending a day at Grimes Field in Urbana, Ohio. This little airport has pretty much everything you could ask for: plenty of GA traffic, an excellent restaurant and not one but TWO aviation museums!

Along on the journey was my friend Jim Thompson, former stairs truck driver for a major airline (now retired) and current airport ambassador. We started our visit at the Grimes Flying Lab Museum. This museum is only open on Saturday mornings so I’m really glad we timed our trip to allow us to see it.

Housed in a single hangar, the exhibits are a showcase of the life and work of Warren Grimes, who founded an aircraft lighting company in the mid-1920s. The collection includes pretty much every type of lighting you can think of… and probably some you didn’t! The centerpiece of the collection is a C45-H which was used as a test bed and is decked out with so many lights it looks rather like a flying disco. It. Is. AWESOME!

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After an hour or so we made our way over to the other museum on the field – the Champaign Aviation Museum. The first thing I noticed when we walked in the door was a C-47 on display.  These planes played an important role in WWII, particularly during the invasion of Normandy when more than 50,000 paratroopers jumped from them.  With the 75th Anniversary of D-Day coming up in just a few weeks, I appreciated the chance to get an up close look at such an iconic airplane.

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This particular warbird spent some time in the civilian world.

The next thing to catch my attention was the B-17 in pieces at the far side of the hangar. Named Champaign Lady, it is undergoing a ground-up restoration using various parts from other B-17s as well as some newly fabricated pieces. It was fascinating to see how it is being assembled. It’s even more impressive when you consider it is being constructed by volunteers! One of them spent some time talking with us about the challenges of tracking down parts and securing detailed plans for such an old plane. It is definitely a labor of love. I’m really looking forward to the day when she is ready to fly.

Also at the museum is my old friend the B-25 Champaign Gal. I’ve seen her at many aviation events and if you’ve checked out my “about the blogger” page, there’s a picture of the two of us together. There were quite a number of other exhibits related to World War II including uniforms, wedding dresses made from parachutes and many, many photographs.

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My favorite exhibit, however, featured the Women Airforce Service Pilots, more commonly referred to as the WASPs. The museum has life-sized cut-outs of at least a dozen WASPs, each of which is holding a poster-sized information sheet which includes a photograph of themselves from WWII, their nickname, what planes they flew and an anecdote from their time in the service. Some of their tales are absolutely priceless! The exhibit brings the WASPs to life in a way that history books cannot. I found myself desperately wishing I could have met those ladies in person!

After we left the museum we did what any self-respecting avgeek does – we grabbed some lunch and hung around and watched airplanes! One of the best things about GA airports is how close you can get to the ramp areas. I was pleasantly surprised by the number and variety of planes that flew in while we were there.

So, what GA airfield have you visited recently? Need some suggestions of where to go? Check out eatattheairport.com! And if you are anywhere near Urbana, OH (or even if you aren’t) plan a visit to Grimes Field. Just make sure you get a piece of ridiculously delicious pie at the cafe – because the only thing better than spending a day with airplanes is spending a day with airplanes AND pie!

Want to learn more about the Champaign Aviation Museum? Check out episode 548 of the Airplane Geeks Podcast in which they interview Aimee Brower who handles public affairs, donor relations, and education.

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Photo by Jim Thompson

One Hundred (and then some)!

one hundredWoah! 100 posts? Have I really written that many? Actually… now that I’ve added them up it turns out I’ve written 103 altogether! Apparently I sailed right by the big 100 milestone without even realizing it. Oops!

So how did I get here? Well I’ve always enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t until I landed my current job at the airport that I found something I really wanted to write about on a consistent basis. And I quickly discovered that there is so much more to life at an airport than just airplanes. There are snowplows and water canon salutes and sunrises on the airfield. I’ve helped on the deice pad, visited ATC towers, and stood on a taxiway to watch an A350 land. I’ve ridden in a broom truck, sat in a stairs truck and driven an ops truck. I truly am a kid in a candy store every day.

37778512_UnknownOf course when I hit publish on that first post I had no idea whether anyone would actually read it. 100 posts later, I’m a bit shocked to discover I have readers from over 120 different countries. (Seriously? Wow!) As you might imagine, many come from places like the US, UK, Canada, Australia and France. However there are some readers from countries I didn’t expect, like Aruba (reading about stairs trucks on the beach, no doubt) and Nepal (probably learning about deicing whilst hiking the Himalayas).

People have stumbled onto my blog in a variety of different ways. Most find it through social media, however I’ve also gotten views from readers who have shared it with their friends or posted links to it online. (It’s a really great feeling when that happens!) I get traffic from search engines too. It amuses me to see the search phrases that have somehow led people to my blog. Here are a few of my favorites:37778416_Unknown

“Mobile stairs airfield” Yeah, this one is a no-brainer.

“Useless airport trivia” Yep, I’ve got lots of that!

“Fun jobs with finance degree” Actually, I don’t have a finance degree. Shhhh! Don’t tell!

“Beer Emergency Vehicle” Where the heck is that when I need it?

“How to drive airport stairs” Stay tuned! I hope to be able to give a first-hand report on this one of these days!

37778240_UnknownMy most viewed post so far is: Airline Fees That THEY Have to Pay. I really didn’t expect that a post about something I do every day (invoicing airlines) would be very popular.  In fact, I actually put off writing it for over a year because I wasn’t sure anyone would find it interesting. Doh!

One of my most defining moments as a blogger (so far) came in 2017.  That was the year I first got media credentials for Airventure. The Blue Angels were there and I got to interview one of the pilots. The experience went something like this: OMG I have media credentials! OMG the Blue Angels! OMG I have absolutely no idea what to ask! Thank goodness Lt. Benson was a class act who not only answered my questions (once I managed to think of some), but also posed for a photo with me. If you had told me when I started writing this blog that I would be interviewing the Blue Angels at Oshkosh I never would have believed it!IMG_0429

So what’s next? Well I’ve been toying with the idea of incorporating more videos into my posts. And you never know when I might pop up on a podcast (or two). But mostly I plan to continue having adventures at the airport and writing about them.  I hope you’ll continue to follow along!

THANK YOU so much for reading and for all your support!

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