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!

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!

OSH20 – the Week That (sort-of) Wasn’t

It’s my favorite week of the whole year! I spend 365 days looking forward to it. It’s better than Christmas. It’s Airventure Oshkosh! Except… not this year. Thanks to the current pandemic, Osh20 was canceled. There are not enough words to express how devastated I’ve been.

I tried to distract myself by taking a (socially-distanced) day-trip across the lake to a cheerful little island. But I just spent my time lurking around the airport there, looking for airplanes. I went through old photos and shared them online with the other Osh faithful. It was somewhat helpful to know that I was not alone in my grief.

In the absence of our beloved fly-in, the good folks at EAA put together the Spirit of Aviation Week. It consisted of a collection of online events and forums covering a wide-range of topics. I’ll admit I was skeptical about it at first – no virtual event can ever take the place of the real deal. But then I looked over the list of offerings and saw a few that looked interesting. So I decided to check them out. And I’m so glad I did! I carried my ipad outside, plugged in my headphones and as I listened I could almost imagine I was sitting in one of the forum buildings on the Airventure grounds.

The first event I “attended” was a panel discussion with members of the US Air Force Demo teams. Participating in the event were an F-16 pilot, an F-22 pilot, an F-35 pilot and an A-10 pilot. They discussed the challenges of keeping their skills sharp during a season when most shows have been canceled. They also talked about flying at Osh, how it is different from some of the other places they fly and how much they look forward to performing there. I was interested to learn that as a recruiting tool, the demo teams are primarily trying to reach kids ages 8-12. That seems young to me, but they say it is the best age to capture and maintain an interest in becoming military aviators.

The next event I attended was the Airline Pilot Career Outlook, hosted by United Airlines. I am not interested in becoming an airline pilot, but I was curious to get United’s take on the pandemic and the impact it is having on the industry. They reiterated what we already know – this has been the worst year for the airlines, ever. They believe it will likely be two years before they are ready to start hiring again. However, they are very cognizant of the fact that 50% of their workforce will retire in 10 years and 90% will retire in 20 years. Pandemic or not, that is a lot of pilots that will be needed. They are trying to connect with future pilots early on – a fact they emphasized by announcing their sponsorship of EAA’s Young Eagles programs.

I wrapped up the week by attending an FAA seminar entitled “Don’t Let that Airport Fool You!” With a title like that, of course I had to attend! I was curious to know just exactly how airports go around fooling people. The seminar was really about how to avoid wrong surface/wrong airport events. I learned that certain types of airport geometry (parallel and offset parallel runways, complicated layouts, etc.) can contribute to these types of events. It made me wonder how many airport planners are also pilots. Seems like it would be helpful to have hands-on experience when making decisions about taxiway placements, etc.

I really enjoyed attending these sessions and I appreciate everything EAA did to provide a taste of Airventure in the midst of a difficult year. That said, I’m really glad Osh week is over. I’m ready to stop feeling sad about what didn’t happen, and look ahead to better days. Hope to be able to see you all at Airventure 2021!

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Five years!

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December 1, 2019 marked five years since I started working for the airport. That’s right – I’ve been running around like a kid in a candy store for five whole years now. How is that even possible?  I knew I was going to love working in aviation, but I didn’t anticipate how much I was going to fall in love with the airport itself. And I never dreamed that I would get to see and do as much as I have.

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I have always wanted to sneak my way into an ATC tower. This probably explains why the FAA added another set of “No Trespassing” signs around the tower fence right after I started my job. To my surprise, however, in the last five years I’ve visited all four towers at the three airports where I work plus the tower at Oshkosh. ATC towers are every bit as cool as I thought they would be.  The only thing cooler than the towers?  The TRACON! I’m still shocked that they not only let me in, but showed me around and explained what they were doing.

Being the avgeek that I am, I bring my scanner to work every day so I can listen when I’m plane spotting during my breaks. I sometimes listen to Live ATC at my desk too –  I just really like knowing what is going on. At this point I’ve listened to hundreds of hours of ATC communications dealing with all kinds of scenarios in all kinds of weather. Some of the most memorable conversations have also been the most amusing, like the pilot who threatened to do donuts on the uncontrolled ramp and another who was afraid of his 666 squawk code and requested a new one.

IMG_3142Airport Vehicles

Airport ground vehicles for the win! Who knew they were so cool?  From belt loaders to tugs to baggage trolleys and deice trucks – I’m a fan. The really crazy thing is how many I’ve been allowed to examine up close.  I’ve been able to sit in a snow plow and a fire truck, gotten to take a close look at a deicing rig and I’ve ridden around in broom truck.  I haven’t driven a stairs truck yet (the coolest of all airport vehicles), but I’ve sat behind the wheel and that’s a start!

Airplanes!

I’m not going to lie – being around airplanes every day is awesome. It doesn’t matter how many take-offs and landings I’ve seen – flying is still magic. I knew I’d see a lot of RJs and 737s around, but I had no idea I’d also get to see the occasional B767 and A330 as well.  Plus I’ve seen an incredible assortment of military airplanes including T-38s,  A10s, F18s, KC135s,  and C130s.  I’ve even seen Airforce One on multiple occasions. I also didn’t anticipate how much I was going to fall in love with business aviation.  Gulfstreams, Globals, Falcons… they stop me in my tracks every time I see them because they are just so darn gorgeous.

IMG_5307Really BIG Airplanes!

When I accepted the job with the airport authority I was excited to be working at a passenger airport, however I was even more excited to be affiliated with a cargo airport.  Why?  Because 747s!  And 777s!  And Antonovs!  There is ALWAYS something interesting to see.  On my very first visit I got to stand on the ramp and watch an Emirates 777 land and then taxi over to be unloaded. I’ve gotten up close and personal with an An124 more than once now.  Oh yes, I LOVE big planes!

Missed Approaches and other “Emergencies”

The first time I saw an airplane go around it was fascinating.  Five years later I’ve seen dozens of missed approaches I have to say… they are STILL really fascinating. They happen for all kinds of reasons, most of them entirely mundane.  Same with aborted take-offs.  I’ve seen several and they were far less dramatic than I expected.  I have also witnessed several emergency landings over the years.  They’re a bit more intense, but thanks to the efforts of ATC, ARFF, Airport Ops and the pilots, they all ended smoothly and uneventfully.

XLBSE1167Favorite Experience

It is hard for me to single out a favorite moment from the past five years because there have been so many.  As a general rule, the coolest experiences happen out on the airfield.  That’s where all the action is.  It’s also where the ground support vehicles hang out.  And it’s where the airplanes are!  If I absolutely HAD to pick a favorite, it would be the winter I trained to assist Ops with managing the flow of traffic into the deice pad.  I got to drive around on the ramp in an ops vehicle and talk to airplanes and ATC on the radio. I mean seriously –  it doesn’t get much cooler than that!  It was a mild winter so I never got signed off to manage the pad by myself but who knows – maybe one of these days I’ll get another chance.

IMG_5310 (2)On the Wish List

What would I like to do that I haven’t done yet?  Well I still haven’t driven a snow plow or gone out with the airfield team during a snow event. I’d really love to go up in the bucket of a deice rig just once.  Of course driving a stairs truck remains a goal. And I still really, really want to ride around on the baggage belt. However, I’ve recently added a new item to my wish list: making an airport-wide page. If you ever find yourself wandering through the terminal and you hear someone paging Captain Oveur to the white courtesy phone… let’s just say I’ll deny all knowledge.

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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!

 

 

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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The Tower, The TRACON, and Me, Oh My!

36062608_UnknownI’ve got a thing for ATC towers. Who doesn’t, right? They’ve got the best view in the world! I’ve been staring longingly up at the tower at my airport since I started working there, wishing that I could get inside. I think they are aware of this because they keep adding more and more “no trespassing” signs along the fence.

Taking the hint, I’ve turned my attention elsewhere. There are three other towers under the jurisdiction of the airport authority, and I’ve visited all three. I’ve also managed a visit to the ramp tower at CLT. And earlier this year I reached the pinnacle of my tower-visiting career by spending time in the tower at Oshkosh during Airventure. It was amazing!

36062672_UnknownBut… there’s still that tower at work. The one I park next to every day. The one whose controllers I listen to all the time. I’ve heard them handle emergencies and bad weather and single runway ops. Heck, I’ve even spoken to them when I helped on the deice pad. I feel like I know these people! I’m their biggest fan! And yet, this tower has remained out of reach…

UNTIL NOW!

Oh yes, you read that correctly! I FINALLY got inside the tower and let me tell you – it was AWESOME! Ready for pics? OK, here you go!

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Yeah, that’s it. Sorry. We weren’t allowed to take photos. We weren’t even allowed to have our phones on. So the pics in this post are from other towers. You’ll still get an idea of what it was like though.

Enlight38 (1)First stop was the cab. Wow. Just… wow! No other way to describe it! The view was spectacular. The planes look so small from up there! Getting to see the airport from that vantage point was both incredible and informative. For example, I learned that the tower does not have a good view of the deice pad because it is hidden by the terminal building. I didn’t realize that before.

The flight activity was fairly light during our visit, however the airport was on single-runway ops at the time, which is always fun to watch. We got an overview of the different tower positions, then we got to chat with the clearance controller for a bit who told us about the position and what it does. He showed us the flight strips and explained how to read them. I noticed that the “Bird Stike” box on his computer screen was lit up red. He said there had been a bird strike earlier that morning. (It is migration season so there is increased bird activity right now.)

FullSizeRender (87)All too soon our cab visit ended and as you might expect, I REALLY didn’t want to leave. I was prepared with a whole list of reasons why they should let me stay:

  • I’ll wash the windows
  • I’ll fetch coffee and snacks
  • I won’t get in the way
  • I promise not to unplug anything

However, before I could start begging and pleading, the ATC folks quite wisely tempted me with an offer I couldn’t refuse: a visit to the radar room. Sweet! I’ve always wanted to visit a TRACON!

IMG_2256The first thing I noticed when I entered the room was that it is dark. Really dark. It took a minute for my eyes to adjust. When they did, I saw lots of computer stations. The controllers who work here not only handle approach and departure for my airport, but they handle all the traffic below 10,000 feet for most of the state. (There apparently used to be two TRACONS that got combined into one, which is why they cover so much territory.)

We got to spend time with two controllers who were handling the airspace right around the airport. Their manager explained what they were doing and helped us to understand the information on the radar screens. One of the controllers got a call from the tower at the cargo airport with a heads up that two military tankers were about to take off. Sure enough they popped up onto the screen a few moments later. I was a bit alarmed to see that their targets were both flashing red. The controller explained that flashing red means the airplanes are too close together. If they had been civilian flights then he would have had to act quickly to separate them. However, military flights handle their own separation, so in this case it was OK.

IMG_8431There was definitely a different vibe in the TRACON vs. the cab.  In the TRACON the focus is entirely on the computer screens. The controllers have a lot of airspace to manage and the atmosphere felt a little more intense.  In the cab the focus is on the world outside the windows. The most important thing, however, is how it all fits together to keep things running smoothly and safely.

I would have happily stayed all day, but after a few more minutes it was time for us to go. Wow! What an epic visit! I still gaze longingly up at the tower, but now it’s with a better understanding of what’s going on in there. Oh – and the window washing and snacks thing? I’m still available. Any time. Seriously.

 

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Only at Osh

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There’s this strange time warp thing that happens the week of Airventure.  For some reason that week goes by faster than any other week of the year. I arrived on Saturday looking forward to a glorious 7 days of airplanes and friends, then *poof* just like that I’m back home again. At Osh time really does fly! Here’s a look at my last couple of days at the world’s best aviation playground.

Days Four and Five

Enlight33I didn’t think anything could top my Wednesday visit to the tower, but Thursday came very close when I had the amazing opportunity to meet SEAN D TUCKER! The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is beginning a seven year renovation project. When they finish there will be a new exhibit which will feature one of Sean D Tucker’s airplanes, which will be hung upside down (of course) at the entrance to the gallery. After the press conference he posed for pictures by his plane. I was overcome by a sudden case of shyness, but Sean D saw me and called me over. He’s such a great person!

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The other big event on Thursday was a visit to the Seaplane Base. I have been trying to get over there for years and was so excited to finally make it. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that the Seaplane Base is an oasis. It’s set on a lagoon in the middle of the woods and it is calm and peaceful. We took the boat tour which only takes about ten minutes and is totally worth it.

Thursday concluded with the night show, which was rained out on Wednesday and then rescheduled. HUGE shout-out to EAA for doing that! I was so sad to think I wouldn’t see a night show this year and was thrilled that I got to see one after all. There were all the usual night displays we’ve come to love, but this year they added a drone display. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was actually pretty cool. They used around 100 drones with colored lights to create various shapes and patterns.

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Watching the fireworks with Doc – it’s a tradition!

Friday was a quiet day. I spent some time in the warbirds area watching the activity on runway 27/9. Then I traveled down to the vintage area to watch the air show with friends. It was nice to have a day to relax and take in the sights.

Only at Osh

35256400_UnknownThe expression “only at Osh” is often used by attendees to indicate an event or happening that is unique to Airventure. I had several of those moments. Visiting the ATC tower was one.  Meeting Sean D Tucker was definitely another.  Another happened when Mike’s friend told us we could find him “near the T-6 with the flag.” At any other event that would be sufficient information to find his location. At Osh, however, we searched row after row after row of T-6s and eventually had to call back for a better meeting spot.

I asked some of my friends on social media to share their “Only at Osh” moments. For some it was about the airplanes and the over-all experience:

For others, it was about the people:

And for many it was a combination of things:

For me what makes Osh truly special is… well, Osh!  It’s the place where I see more airplanes on my way to breakfast than I’ll see in a month at home.  It’s the place where I get to spend time with some of my very favorite people.  It’s the place where I get to watch airport operations to my heart’s content.  And, of course, it’s the place where the coolest stairs trucks are.  I’m ready for Osh 19!  Hope to see you there!

Want more Osh 18? Check out my pre-game,  day one and ATC visit posts.  Also, you MUST give a listen to the Flying and Life podcast! I even make a special appearance.  Or two. Or three…

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ATC at OSH18

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Days two and three at Osh 2018 were a whirlwind of activity. (Airventure is amazing but also totally exhausting.) Monday we spent some time wandering in the War Birds area. It is the 80th anniversary of the T-6 and there are so many of them! I also found my favorite P-51 – Old Crow.

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In the afternoon we attended Oshbash,  and then I was Mike’s guest at the Lifetime Member’s dinner. This was my first chance to take a look at the EAA Museum. It is very impressive! The dinner was delicious and the speaker was very engaging.

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Wednesday held probably the most anticipated moment of this year’s Airventure: a visit to the Oshkosh ATC tower. Before I get into details, consider that during the week of Airventure this tower is the third busiest in the country behind Chicago and Atlanta. Consider further that the approach controllers are sitting at a trailer out in a field with binoculars. It sounds crazy. Really crazy. But thanks to a lot of hard work on the part of the ATCers who volunteer to be here, it works.

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Our visit started right at the top with a trip to the cab. As you might expect, the view was stupendous. Getting to watch and listen to the controllers at work was fascinating. They work in teams with one person on the radio and two others standing next to them supplying  information. When you look at the activity around the field and you listen to the controllers managing it all, you gain a whole new appreciation for the system. I could have stayed up there all day. Actually, all week. Or even all year. (I’m sure my boss wouldn’t mind. Much.)

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Eventually we went back down to ground level for a meeting with the Air Traffic Control Manager, Tim Fitzgerald. He was a very engaging person who clearly loves his job. Most of the year Oshkosh is a contract tower but during the 9 days of Airventure the FAA comes in to run the show. (They also run the tower at Fond du Lac, which is normally uncontrolled.) They coordinate with the other sectors most heavily involved in routing traffic over to Osh (like Chicago Center) to put together the NOTAM which they release a few months before the show opens. (They’ll start working on next year’s NOTAM about a week or so after this year’s show ends!)

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He told us that controllers volunteer for the assignment. They get all the SOPs and materials about two months in advance. Then they spend a full day in training before the show opens. During the week controllers will rotate through all the positions – OSH tower, Fisk arrival, etc. And it doesn’t matter how experienced you are as a controller, at Airventure you’re considered a rookie until you’ve done at least two years.

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Once again I strongly encourage you to listen to the Flying and Life podcast. Mike did an amazing interview and you REALLY don’t want to miss it. (You know an interview is good when the chat continues for several minutes after the interview ends AND they tell you how much they enjoyed it.)

More Osh goodness will be coming up soon!

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Anatomy of a Go-Around

IMG_6061I’ve been around the airport long enough now that I’ve witnessed many go-arounds. They always grab my attention because the plane passes low over the airport in a way that is different from the usual pattern. Most of the time I don’t have any idea why they are going around, although once I had my scanner on and heard the pilots mention wind shear.

However, recently I happened to be watching as a situation unfolded which required a flight to go around. Not only was I able to witness the events leading up to the go-around, but I was fortunate enough to have my scanner on so I could hear what was going on, plus I had my camera and was able to grab some pics and video.  Even better, I found the audio on LiveATC.net so I was able to review both the photos and the audio and put it together into a video which I’m sharing with you!

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This stairs truck had nothing to do with the go-around.  I just love stairs trucks and this is a really cool one.  Thanks Dr Stephanie Plummer for taking and sharing the pic!

Before I get into the details I want to make it clear that I’m not judging or assessing blame. This is just my account of what I saw and heard. Everyone involved in this situation handled it well and everyone eventually successfully completed their journey – which is, of course, always the goal.

The Scene

The day was warm and sunny with puffy clouds. I don’t have the metars, unfortunately, but as you’ll be able to see in the video, visibility was generally good and any breeze was light.

The airport has two parallel runways, but one of them was closed at the time. This means there was twice as much traffic using the active runway. In fact, the plane that went around would normally have been landing on the other runway, a fact that is significant in the context of this event.

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The Players

There were three planes that were involved: a Vistajet Global 6000, a Delta Boeing 737-800 and a small business jet, whose make and type I didn’t happen to catch. The little bizjet had just landed, the Vistajet was preparing to depart and the Delta was on final.

The Event

If you’ve spent any time watching a busy airport in operation you’ll know that there’s a certain rhythm to it. A plane lands,  it clears the runway, a plane takes off, the next plane lands, etc. ATC establishes this rhythm and manages the separation to keep the flow going smoothly. I actually quite enjoy watching single runway operations because then everything happens right in front of me. This particular event occurred during the evening rush when there is more activity on the airfield.

After the little bizjet landed, ATC cleared Vistajet to line up and wait. Although you can’t hear it on the LiveATC recording, ATC let Vistajet know that there was a 737 on a four mile final. My first inkling that we might have an issue was that the bizjet seemed a little slow to exit the runway.

IMG_6064Once the bizjet turned onto a taxiway, ATC cleared Vistajet to take off. They then cleared the Delta flight to land, noting that departing traffic was on the roll. Except it wasn’t. I watched as Vistajet sat at the end of the runway while the Delta continued on final. It was pretty clear that if Vistajet didn’t get moving ASAP there was going to be a situation.

Sure enough the Tower commanded Vistajet to expedite off the runway via the nearest taxiway. I would imagine the Vistajet pilots were focused on preparing to take off, so the sudden command to taxi instead probably took them a moment to digest. When they didn’t move right away, and with Delta still on approach, ATC again commanded Vistajet to exit the runway. I’ve listened to ATC handling all kinds of situations in all kinds of weather and they always sound completely calm and collected. In this case, however, there was no mistaking the urgency in the controller’s voice.

IMG_6059Unsurprisingly, the next command from ATC was to cancel Delta’s landing clearance and send them around. The Delta pilot’s response was perhaps my favorite part of the whole thing. While the Vistajet scrambled to exit the runway and the controller sounded a bit tense, the Delta pilot sounded… bored. Like he does go-arounds ten times a day. I’m sure the Delta flight crew were maintaining situational awareness, could tell what was happening and were already preparing to abort the approach.

Now that I’ve set it up for you, here’s the video so you can listen and see for yourself. The audio clip is exactly as it was recorded by LiveATC – I didn’t do any editing other than trimming it to just the incident portion of the recording:

Sure there may have been a tense moment or two and yes the situation caused two planes to be delayed a little bit, but the bottom line is everyone arrived safely at their destination. Vistajet was resequenced for departure and Delta was routed back into the traffic pattern where they made an uneventful landing a few minutes later. On the airfield, as in life, things don’t always go as planned. As long as everyone pays attention, it doesn’t have to be a problem.

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