Those ‘Oshkosh Moments’ Stay With You for Life (Part 5 of 10)

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Read previous parts of this series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

O.K., sure, I write about Oshkosh a lot here on Airplanista. I’ve you’ve been to the show, you know why. If you have never been to the World’s Largest Aviation Celebration, you may not be able to understand how this show stays with you all year, and the memories you make there stay with you for life. It got me thinking about some of those cherished “Oshkosh Moments” I have experienced over the years. 

So if you are not yet oversaturated on me writing about Oshkosh, here’s another installment of my Top 10 list:

6. First walk through Aeroshell Square (2003) – It was the year that I first set foot on the AirVenture grounds, and the visit created numerous ‘Oshkosh Moments” for this wide-eyed noob. I had wanted to make the trip earlier, but the reason I waited was that I wanted to own a decent camera, and bought my first serious Canon DSLR about that time. And boy did it get a workout.

I had joined up with a Cessna flyers group in Waupaca, Wisconsin, and rode their tour bus from our hotel into the show. From there, I went rogue and walked the show myself. After grabbing my media credentials at the very handy location next to the front gate (before they moved it way out almost to Green Bay near the freeway), I headed straight for what was then Aeroshell Square. After burning through what seemed like 10 rolls of digital film, I headed to the flight line, and turned right (south) towards Vintage. That’s when the fun began.

As this was my very first trip to Oshkosh, I was completely blown away. Row upon row of perfectly restored vintage airplanes were right there, beckoning for me to come take their photo, and so I obliged. I spent the next few hours mesmerized by so many gorgeous airplanes, and shot around 500 images before the afternoon concluded. I love a nice Globe Swift, and here were rows of them, all perfectly restored…just unbelievable. I strolled the exhibit halls, watched a bit of the airshow, and then had to board the Cessna bus back to Waupaca.

The next day, I again strolled through Aeroshell Square, but when I got to the flight line, I glanced left to the north. I had walked the entire south end of the field the day before, and had not even considered what was to the north. So off I went and was again blown away by endless fields of experimentals, aerobatic airplanes by the dozen, and of course, all the #avgeek wonderfulness in Warbirds. I again blew through probably 500 more images, ate my very first Brat (off the Johnsonville "World's Largest Grill," which is an 18-wheeler), watched a couple of forums, and again headed back to Waupaca with the Cessna group. I will always remember this first trip to Oshkosh, because I had no idea what I was doing or what I was going to discover next. It was like a treasure hunt, with a new pot of gold around every corner.

To this day, every time I make the show, I chuckle at that first visit, when I was so green, I didn’t even know what was on the field. Today, I have that entire show grounds permanently etched into my brain, and could probably walked from Vintage to Warbirds with my eyes closed. That wide awakening when I enjoyed my first AirVenture is why I coach noobs to (a) Read as much as they can about the show before they depart, (b) Study the show grounds map to plan out what sections are “must see” and last (c) LEARN THE TRAM ROUTES! 

It wasn’t until my third trip there when I even knew the trams existed. I was trudging along one hot, humid afternoon, sore feet, probably dehydrated, when this John Deere tractor pulling a few trailers full of people about ran me over. I stepped out of the middle of the road, watched it go by, and in that moment, learned I can take those shuttles all around the show. Want to get out to the North 40 or Warbirds from Vintage? Jump the yellow tram, transfer to the red tram at the base of the FAA control tower, and enjoy a nice leisurely and SEATED ride to your next stop. You get to see the show slide by as you rest your body in preparation for jumping off at your stop to resume trudging. 

I always chat people up on the trams, and one year, asked the guy next to me if he flew into the show, and if so, what model of RV was his. That is always a safe question since so many people you meet there fly something they built from Vans. But not this guy. He flew in a Fieseler Fi 156 Storch, a very, very rare German observation plane. Another time, a woman said she flew in a Howard 500. You just never know who will be riding with ya on these trams. The ride itself can produce some ‘Oshkosh Moments’ that you will remember forever.

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