By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor
About this time each year, many thousands of people in the aviation family start thinking about EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, and say "this is the year" they will finally make their first visit to this incredible celebration of aviation. For some reason, life, work or a plethora of other reasons has always made the trek to the shores of Lake Winnebago impossible.
But not 2015, because finally, this year will be different, you say. If one of the things that has prevented you from going is the complexity of such a large multi-day event, rest assured you can go to Oshkosh on any day of the show and see and do things that will blow you away. In fact, there is so much to do at the "world's largest aviation celebration" that it is actually possible to go for the entire week and not see everything.
So, in my attempt to help you jump down off the fence, buy your tickets and plan travel to KOSH, here are some random thoughts about what you will experience while there. These are just a taste of what's waiting for you, and by all means, if this post gets you psyched to attend, visit airventure.org and start clicking away. Their great scheduling tools allow you to pick the days you will be on the show grounds to display all that is happening before filtering down to the stuff you absolutely must see. Add those things to the "My Itinerary" tool after you log in or create an EAA.org account. It's a great way to methodically plan your visit to the show.
There are a few things though you will not find on this official schedule, and it's these events and activities that I'll focus on in this post. And, this is aimed squarely at Airplanistas who have never been to Oshkosh, because if you have, some of this will seem Old Hat.
Come for more than one day: If one day is all you can get to come to Oshkosh, then just do that and you will have a ball. But I recommend three days minimum. It'll take you most of the first day just to get your bearings. Make sure to pick up the EAA maps that are everywhere on the grounds, you will be lost in a sea of airplanes without it. If you do two days, take some time at night to reflect on your first day, look at the map, read the excellent AirVenture Today newspaper, and try to plan your next day. On that second day, you'll have a much better chance of finding the things that really matter to you. And that third day is when you begin to feel like an Oshkosh long-timer as you will have the lay of the show down and can get around quickly to see more great things.
Use the Trams: Your first task upon entering the show grounds on Day One is to find that EAA map and learn the Tram routes. They basically run North-South from the North 40 gate to the far south end of the Ultralights area...and there are stops everywhere along these routes. Find out what the Tram stops look like and where those Trams go, so when you are way WAY out in Vintage drooling on the row after row of Beech Staggarwings and realize the Warbirds in Review presentation for the P-38s is about to start down in the Warbirds area, you can quickly and efficiently hop the Tram system. As a donated John Deere tractor driven by a very friendly Oshkosh-area local navigates the crowded lanes, you can beat the heat and save your feet. Usually give yourself 30 minutes from one end of the show to the other via a Tram.
Make it to Ardy and Ed's for a burger: O.K., this tip is not technically at AirVenture, but after you take it, you will agree this is a required stop for your visit. Find some way to this classic 1950s Drive-in for burgers, fries and Root Beer that is literally stuck in time. Cute young female carhops on Roller Skates will take your order carside, or consume a Drive-in Double (burger AND Bratwurst patties...yum) on the patio. What is incredible about this place is its location...directly under the final approach to runway 27 at KOSH. So as you eat this legendary food surrounded by aviation family members all having a blast, a nose-to-tail Conga line of inbounds to two-seven slides by overhead. You'll see anything from a mess of Cessna 172s and Piper Cherokees, to Cubs, bizjets, endless experimentals, warbirds, it is truly limitless. You will learn to eat with your head pointed straight up gawking at airplanes, but it just makes the food slide down that much easier.
Visit Camp Scholler at night: To the south and west of the show grounds, acres of camping areas come alive at night. To the people camped here, this is why they came...to socialize with friends they may only see one time a year at Oshkosh. Even if you do not know anyone, just walk up to most any group standing around a campfire, introduce yourself, and start talking airplanes. If you are carrying beer, it always makes you welcome just about anywhere in Scholler. On every row will be organized groups like the always-singing South Africans, the technologically-advance Avgeeks, and plenty of local EAA chapters partying and enjoying the kind of camaraderie you will not find anywhere else.
Bring lots of digital film: Unless you are a pro shooter, you do not own enough memory cards for your digital camera. Buy extra, you will need it, because it is completely possible to fill up several SD cards a day photographing so many gorgeous airplanes. I recommend 64GB SD cards, it takes work to fill them up, and they have lots of room for video...and you WILL take video.
Pack water and update your phone's weather apps: For guys like me from Oregon, the heat and humidity of Wisconsin in summer is unbearable. So carry a decent-sized water bottle for each member of your party, and refill often at the many H20 filling stations around the grounds. And keep that weather app handy, because the weather at Oshkosh can be brutal and unpredictable. It can go from choking hot to massive thunderstorms in an hour. So carry a good app with NEXRAD radar, and look at the regional map each hour. You will see anything developing, and if it's headed towards the show, start thinking about ways to take cover.
There are just a few ideas for things to make your first Oshkosh more enjoyable. As the show gets closer, I will post a few more, so add your email to the SUBSCRIBE field near top right of this page to receive updates from Airplanista in your email inbox. We never solicit you or give away your address, it is only used when new content is posted.