The Magic That is EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is Evident on Day Zero

9:35 PM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

I usually begin my coverage of this incredible aviation family reunion that is "Oshkosh" when I walk onto the show grounds for the first day of my visit to this beautiful, magical place. It is hard for non-aviators to "get" why we come here, but for those of us lucky to be right here, right now, indescribable joy surrounds us, embraces us, pulls us in and overwhelms us. It is this powerful, almost magnetic attraction that draws us to this otherwise sleepy Upper Midwest city every summer.
When I say this is a magical place, if you've never experienced Oshkosh, you might not understand what that means. But today, as I arrived via the commercial airlines for my 3.5 days of aviation bliss, the "that can only happen at Oshkosh" moments began full throttle. Spoken of singularly, each of these things that happened to me today were fantastic, but consider them collectively and you start to paint a picture of why this is the world's largest aviation celebration. Let me set the stage:
After an rather uneventful eastbound ride in a couple of pressurized tubes full of people who had no idea what Oshkosh is, I finally found myself at O'Hare Airport's gate E1A waiting to board a short 25-minute hop up to Appleton, the closest airport to the show with commercial service. And like every flight to this place in years past, a glance around the gate revealed maybe half the people were wearing some sort of shirt or hat identifying them as aviation people. It's cool to strike up a conversation with any of them, and with each word, the adventure begins. Some are coming to work the show at a booth, others are just coming to go full immersion in airplane wonderland for a few days. At Oshkosh - and even in the airport heading there - it doesn't take much to make new friends. Everyone is giddy, knowing what lies at the other end of this short hop up the west side of Lake Michigan.
The flight northbound towards the show was the usual vectors to avoid the busy KORD airspace, and usually, KATW is approached from the south, and it is easy to see the expanse of the show off the right wing. But this arrival was much, MUCH different:
I was on the wrong side of the plane, so out my left window, I looked down hoping to maybe see the Conga Line of VFR arrivals over Fisk. But to my amazement, under the wing slid Camp Scholler, directly below us! That had to mean that our routing was taking us directly OVER the show, northbound just about over the flight line. We looked to be maybe 8000', well above show traffic. At about the precise point where we would have been right over the B-52 waiting for us on Boeing Plaza, the Embraer 145 pilot (who BTW had a jump seater riding in the flight deck) cranked it fairly hard right out over Lake Winnebago, as if he was doing a "flyby" because HE WAS! The photo in this post - a screen grab from FlightRadar24 - shows the path of our arrival. As soon as we banked right over the show, I pointed down and turned to an AOPA manager sitting across the aisle, who was also pointing straight down. We both mouthed "WE'RE RIGHT OVER THE SHOW!" in silent unison. Truly a magical Oshkosh moment.
After Thomsen Meeks - X-Plane's Social Media manager - and his dad Tom picked me up at KATW, we went direct to Oshkosh's iconic Ardy and Ed's 1950s drive-in restaurant...a required stop for everyone attending this show. And again, magic happened:
Out on the patio, diners at this great place have a perfect view of incoming arrivals to KOSH's runway 27. O.K., not perfect...their big metal umbrellas do a fine job of providing shade, but also blocks out a direct view of the traffic overhead. So like a sort of ballet, whenever anything cool comes over, everyone jumps from their tables and runs out to see what it is. In the minutes it took me to devour a Drive-in Double (burger AND Brat patties), fries and  Black Cow, we saw a P-51 Mustang, maybe three Twin Beeches, a serious old vintage biplane, and one Vari-Eze that sounded like one magneto or maybe his fuel filter was crapping out big time. He made it in despite his rough engine, followed closely by another Vari-Eze that purred by.
What makes this a magical Oshkosh moment is that I was surrounded by a group of really cool people...aviation family I only see this one time a year. Cory Robin had parked his Wilgabeast and was there, and Brandi and David Fill had arrived with Glen Towler from New Zealand, who flew over 11,000 miles to be there.
Oh, but the fun was not over. In between bites and while participating in endless aviation conversation, David Fill told us of his two-year-old daughter Audra's newest word. Now, whenever she sees ANY biplane (yes, she knows the difference, even at two), she points up and shouts "STEARMAN!" So from that point on - and I suspect throughout #OSH15 - any time even a Cessna flew over, some wiseass would point up and yell "STEARMAN!" It was the kind of priceless camaraderie that only can happen here.
Yes, I am energized - this is going to be a magical few days. And I haven't even set foot on the show grounds yet.

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