There Are Many Reasons Why Oshkosh is a Week-Long Event

11:03 PM

By the good graces of the Aviation Gods – and some luck getting through O'Hare as thunderstorms were pushing inbounds to almost two hour delays – I made it home from EAA's Annual flying machine orgy, Bratfest and Social extravaganza.

I had enjoyed two packed days at the show, and was able to get plenty of exercise chasing down the many wonders found in Airplane Wonderland. But as I was slipping the surly bonds at FL380 inside UAL 949 ORD-PDX last night, it gave me time to reflect not on what I saw at Oshkosh, but what I missed. This post is a primer for anyone who is going to try and squeeze this incredible event into 48 hours...and my advice to them in three concise words is this:

Don't. Try. It.

Sure, if two days is all you can get off, then by all means, go to WILL be worth your time. But if you really want to experience this event in a way to allows you to see everything, schedule at least four days.

My "Oshkosh 2010" trip had gaping holes big enough to fly a Dreamliner through. My days and nights were packed solid, so it wasn't like I was stalled out on a bench being lazy. From the minute my brand new, [highly recommended] Dr. Scholl's walking shoes had me gellin' coming in the main gate to the second those same shoes stepped on to the city bus headed back to the dorms at night, I was running from one thing to the next.

Let's me look back now at some of the stuff I missed because two days was nowhere near enough time at KOSH:

Airplane window shopping: Each maker had larger displays showing their latest and greatest birds. I walked, no RAN, past the Cessna, Cirrus, Piper, Pilatus and Kestral booths many times en route to somewhere, but never had time to stop, remove all the gear I was packing and sit inside these ships to inhale that "new airplane smell." Maybe that's for the better because today, that smell comes with ridiculously high price tags.

The vintage airplane parking areas: Sure, I walked past the occasional Stinson or Howard, and yes, you couldn't get through Aeroshell Square without drooling on some of this planet's finest DC-3s. But there are literally acres of beautiful restorations of the older ships at Airventure, and I never got to walk those acres and enjoy their graceful lines or marvel at their legacies. To give those old machines the respect they deserve, one half day is required, minimum.

The avionics booths: I did rip through all four huge exhibition hangars, but never had the time to really stop and shop at Garmin or spend quality time in the Bendix/King store. I have a passing curiosity about the hot new "boxes" but in my reality-based world, I just dropped ten large on a new Trane HVAC system at the DanoDome, so looking at the GPS of my dreams would have been a bit like torture. I guess my subconscious mind instructed my legs to continually move me safely away from the toy department at all times.

Warbirds, including the Zero: I rode to Rock Falls and on into Oshkosh with a very sociable woman named Cindy who was one-third owner in the Japanese Zero on display in the warbird area. She insisted I come over to see it, but try as I did, it never happened. Twice, I was on the red tram headed that direction, only to look at my schedule and realize a forum I really had to attend was minutes away from launch. So I got off at the Pavilions both times and never got to stroll the warbirds. That, it clearly states in the Oshkosh rule book, is nearly a crime.

A million connections missed: I was able to see Lynda Meeks of Girls With Wings long enough to have her autograph her latest Penelope Pilot children's book for my granddaughter. And I caught Max Trescott's forum on night flying, followed by a quick moving chat out to his car as he prepped for the next thing on his busy schedule. But I would have loved to say hello to Tom Haines of AOPA Pilot Magazine, just one of many important people in my aviation journalism industry who I consider worthy of some Wisconsin late summer face time.
I could go on forever with this post, there was that much I missed in my short Oshkosh visit. So please, if you want to do it right, starting planning Airventure 2011 now, and do the whole week. Grab a tent or motor home, a bucket of sunscreen, a pair of quality walking shoes and LOTS of mosquito repellent, and you'll get the full experience this show can deliver.

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