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!

 

 

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

 

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 Magic Avgeek Detector

 

AA92CBF6-7CB4-42C1-89C5-74C715FF0A71One thing I learned early on at my job is that you don’t have to be an aviation enthusiast to work at an airport. In fact, most of the people I work with, while very talented and quite passionate about what they do, aren’t at all interested in airplanes. And that’s OK. But I know there have to be avgeeks hiding out somewhere – the challenge has been finding them.

Even people who on the surface might seem to be interested in aviation, actually aren’t. The first time I saw a P-51 while at work I could barely contain my enthusiasm. I was practically jumping up and down as I watched it taxi out. In fact, I was so excited that I couln’t help exclaiming to a woman who was standing nearby, “ Look! It’s a Mustang!”  As she backed away from me with a confused expression I realized she wasn’t there for the airplanes. She clearly thought I was nuts.

3257F394-B710-4B15-B95C-2C62F9AD184EOver time I pretty much gave up on the idea of tracking down other airport avgeeks. But all that changed last summer in an unexpected way. Did I stumble across a magic device for detecting aviation lovers? Well… kind-of. And what, you ask, is the secret to unveiling hidden avgeeks? An A220 lanyard! Who’d have guessed!

You may recall that last summer at Oshkosh Airventure I got the opportunity to tour the A220, formerly known as the C-Series. The plane is the latest from Bombardier and was caught up in a bit of drama involving a legal challenge from Boeing and a partnership with Airbus (hence the name change). This, in turn, focused quite a bit of extra attention on the plane. As part of the tour I was given a lanyard, which I immediately started wearing at work. Soon thereafter the conversations started:

CEAAAEA9-52A5-4384-A257-3D01562B5E5CHave you seen the A220?

Why yes, I have. Up close and personal. And it is quite lovely. The cockpit is gorgeous – modern and clean. I could have spent hours asking, “Ooooh! What does THIS button do?” I think EAA may have warned Airbus about me because they quickly moved me along into the cabin, where I proceeded to sit in as many seats as possible.

Is the A220 going to be flying to this airport?

Sadly, no. At least not right now. This is not from lack of trying on my part. I wish airlines would start consulting me about these things!

32AB20D5-E4DD-4271-8952-20B4FD56CCF1Do You Work For Delta?

This question took me by surprise until I remembered that Delta ordered several of them and, in fact, is the first US carrier to put them into service. Of course I had to explain that I do not work for Delta, but I’ve been pestering as many of my friends at Delta as possible about sending the plane our way.

Cool lanyard! Where did you get it?

This question came from a Delta gate agent. I told him I got it at Oshkosh and unfortunately I didn’t get any extras. But I’d be happy to give him mine if he can convince his employer to start flying them to our little corner of the midwest!

8B53649A-3769-4521-A3D7-FC673C567528A220, eh? My airline ordered a bunch of them but won’t be flying them.

This statement came from a pilot at Republic Airlines, which puzzled me a bit. After some digging I discovered that Republic did, in fact, place an order with Bombardier. However the order was later removed.

Through the lanyard I’ve not only uncovered some avgeeks hidden amongst my coworkers, but I’ve gotten to chat with pilots, ground crew, gate agents and others who I might not have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. I love it! Sadly, now that the A220 has entered service it will not remain a conversation piece much longer. The hunt will be on for a new lanyard to wear. B797 anyone?

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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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OSH 18 Pre-game

F89B8A11-7ACF-4CD9-9A9A-6E37C80C6568It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, I’m NOT talking about Christmas. I’m talking about EAA’s Airventure 2018, better known as simply, “Osh.” I’m excited to once again be blogging live from the event. You can expect several posts over the course of this week as I share my adventures.

This year I decided to arrive on Saturday in the hopes of catching some of the mass arrivals into Osh on Sunday. The drive up was long and wet as there was rain and lots of traffic. On the bright side, however,  some of that traffic was around ORD which allowed me to watch the departures for awhile. Theoretically I arrived at Osh early enough that I should have seen some arrivals but NOPE! It was raining. So I had dinner with a friend and went to bed early.

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Because this week is always so hectic, I decided to sleep in a little on Sunday. Probably just as well since it was STILL RAINING. I ran some errands in the morning which turned out to be a very good thing because the clouds parted and the sun came out and the planes started arriving.

My friend, Hillel, suggested I join him on the deck of the flight operations building to watch the landings on runway 9. Oh my goodness what an amazing place to watch from! It was soooo much fun. Below are some pics of what I got to see. And check out the Fisk arrivals on LiveATC.net – talk about organized chaos! Stay tuned for more posts through-out the week.

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You can always go around!

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View from the deck

OSH17 Days 2 & 3: Poseidon, UPS and Blue Angels

32054384_UnknownThe last two days have been a whirlwind of aviation awesomeness! As you can probably tell from the title of this post, Airventure covers so many facets of aviation from military to commercial, from ultralights to the family GA airplane. In the last two days I’ve been immersing myself in all of these and it has been, frankly, overwhelming.

Tuesday Highlights

Tuesday morning I was quite determined to go see the warbirds. However, as often happens at Osh, we were distracted by the fact that they were allowing people inside the P-8 Poseidon. Of course we had to go check it out! The cockpit is more or less the same as your typical 737… except for the special military add-ons like the refueling panel. The seats in the back of the plane were replaced with computer work stations and equipment for dropping sonar buoys.

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Stairs truck! Oh – and a Poseidon.

I did eventually make it to the warbirds area and was, as always, blown away by the sheer number of them. The rest of the day was spent setting up for and attending Oshbash (a gathering of social media avgeeks hosted by Airplanista.com)… and running outside every few moments to keep an eye on the afternoon air show.

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Wednesday Highlights

Wednesday at Oshkosh is always WomenVenture. This year UPS flew in a gorgeous 767 with an all-female flight and maintenance crew. I was priveledged to participate in an interview session with one of the AMTs as well as an FO with a truly amazing story. You MUST check out FlyingandLife.com episode 26.2! I guest host with Mike and Glen and I help with the interviews.

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In the afternoon I had the most incredible opportunity EVER! I got to visit the KOSH Airport terminal!!! Oh yeah – and there were F-18s parked all over the ramp.

I also got to interview one of the Blue Angels. Yes, you read that correctly.  Lt Lance Benson was gracious enough (brave enough?) to let me talk with him and ask a few questions. I inquired about women on the Blue Angels team and getting girls interested in aviation. He mentioned that more and more women are becoming involved with Naval aviation and he spoke about getting kids involved in aviation early and encouraging them to follow their passion.

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I also asked him about landing on an aircraft carrier. He gave us an idea what it is like to land at night by suggesting that we go inside our homes and turn out all the lights, light a single match and place it at the far end of a room. That little light in the distance is what a carrier looks like at night. Oh – and his favorite air show act?  The Jack Links “Screaming Sasquatch” jet-assisted bi-plane.

I also got to interview one of the enlisted men who is part of the Blue Angels team (more on that in another post). After the interviews as I was walking away, the A-10 demo started. And yes, I completely freaked out. In front of the Blue Angels. Hey – when you love an airplane, you love it all the time. I’m sure the Blue Angels understand.

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As always, there were tons and tons of amazing airplanes to see and fabulous air shows to watch. The night show was spectacular, as always – even in the pouring rain. (Thanks Doc for sheltering us from the storm!)

Stayed tuned for more from Osh! And if you aren’t following me on Twitter, check out my feed (@Jen_Niffer) for real-time tweets live from the show.

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OSH17 Day One: The Doc Is In!

IMG_0261If you pay any attention to the aviation world then you know that today was the first day of Airventure Oshkosh 2017. And what an amazing day it has been! Here are just a few of the highlights:

Press Conferences

I was able to attend a couple of press conferences today. One was from Piper Aircraft, which included an overview of the company’s performance so far this year. They are celebrating the 80th anniversary of the Piper Cub, which explains why there are row after row of them parked over in the Vintage area. What an impressive milestone!

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I also listened to Jack Pelton’s opening remarks. The attendance stats so far suggest that Osh17 may surpass last year. TIcket pre-sales were very strong and GA camping filled up on the first day. Mr. Pelton also spoke about the ATC privatization bill currently before Congress. If you haven’t already researched this issue, do it now. Then contact your representatives and let them know where you stand.

Airplanes! Airplanes! Airplanes!

There are so many amazing airplanes here that it can be completely overwhelming (in a totally awesome way). Some of the highlights from today include:

Doc and Fifi together at last.

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The B-1B bomber.

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A P-51 Mustang flying with two F-35s, followed immediately by two A-10s.

The Proteus.

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The Buff.

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Pipistrel’s all-electric LSA.

The only thing more wonderful than the airplanes was getting to spend time with so many old friends… many of whom I met for the first time. If you’ve ever been to Oshkosh, then that statement will make perfect sense.

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Thanks Dan/David for taking/sharing this pic!

My only complaint was the total lack of stairs truck. There were none on the plaza. Zero. Zip. Nada. I finally located a few hanging out in a secure area that I couldn’t access. It’s almost like they knew I was coming! Oh well, tomorrow is another day – and it is sure to be just as amazing!

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