See the Annual Aviation Family Reunion While You Still Can

10:32 PM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor
It happened this week, that point in my year when it becomes incredibly hard to focus on anything that does not relate to airplanes and airplane people. Sure, I’m still able to function, write for a number of people simultaneously, and make all my appointments. Life does not stop because Oshkosh – OK, technically EAA AirVenture Oshkosh – is happening in a few days. But as each day passes this time of year, my thoughts begin to shift dramatically to the upcoming Aviation Family Reunion.
I call Oshkosh a family reunion, because over the years, I find myself looking forward to seeing the great people I get to see back there only one time a year. Aviators are a very close group, willing to do anything any time for a fellow aviator. My beer is your beer, your tools are my tools. We stick together, we have each other’s back, and we have an undeniable love for each other.
To me, that sounds a lot like family.
That point in which my focus shifted was a couple of days ago when the three webcams came online at the show grounds. I popped open three tabs in Firefox, lit them up with views of the North 40, Vintage and South 40 cams, and watched my productivity fall off a cliff. OK, not really, I am still banging out the work, but it is times like this I am glad I have multiple displays on my office setup, so I can work on one, and have the webcams on the other. And even though what those cams show is mostly empty airport with a few display tents going up here and there, it is a direct lifeline to the show. Looking with anticipation at the grounds – knowing what is coming – is pouring gas on the fire that is my excitement for Oshkosh.
I only get to see these people at Oshkosh, the #avgeeks that generally reside in or very Camp Bacon. In an attempt at trying to explain why this is so important, I will tell you a story:

After my first Oshkosh in 2003, I came back home and was trying to tell a non-aviator how enormous the show really is. When I told them I didn’t see one Globe Swift, I saw three rows of them wingtip to wingtip, all I got was a blank stare. That’s because regular people cannot appreciate what seeing maybe 30 of one particularly rare make/model really means. I could tell them there were probably 300 – hell, maybe 500 – Van’s RV’s of various designs parked in one place. I could tell them about eating breakfast with a woman who flew in a restored Howard 500, something that just does not happen very often. I could try and get them to envision maybe 25 P-51 Mustangs parked in one place…a rare and spectacular sight. Last, I could tell them about the afternoon airshow, when I saw Patty Wagstaff do impossible things to a flying machine. None of that would matter, because that non-aviator simply will never get it. But the #avgeeks at Oshkosh – my aviation family – they get it.

This is why show week is so special to all of us. For a few glorious days, we are surrounded with people who “get it” and have the same level of insane passion for aviation. You can tell these pilots that you just talked to some dude on the tram that flew in a Fieseler Storch, and get a “wow, that is SO cool!” as a reply. You can be walking over to the Fly-in Theatre with 20 or so #avgeeks and see a giant diamond formation overhead with a lead B-29 (Fifi), a pair of B-17s at his four o’clock and eight o’clock, four B-25s, eight T-6s, and 16 P-51s. As it all flies by blasting the shores of Lake Winnebago with a symphony of radial engine airplane noise, the entire pack of #avgeeks stops in their tracks, talking turns to gawking, and everyone freezes as the formation moves west to east. Every single person in the group knows how rare a sight we are experiencing, so yes, these are my people. They always will be.

I have done Oshkosh each year since 2003, with the exception of 2012 (EU trip). I have seen and walked every square inch of the show, so I know what to expect. I have the show down, what to pack, how to get around, where the water refilling stations are located. And while you can be assured I will spend quality time in Vintage, probably take in at least one forum, and make a high speed pass through all four exhibit hangars, the real reason I go is to eat with friends, gawk with #avgeeks, greet a few readers of this blog, and hang with family.
And if anyone every tries to tell you we are not family, tell them to come hang around the campfire in Camp Bacon any night during Oshkosh. If you don’t feel the love oozing out of every person around you, maybe you need to check out the Monster truck Jam or something else.
The clock is moving slowly now that the webcams are up. And like a migration of birds who fly back to some remote South Pacific island to mate, we too have our rituals. Seeing Larry Overstreet erect the “White Elephant” in Facebook posts always gets me going. Watching @NZAircraftFan start his long, long journey from Wellington, New Zealand to Oshkosh raises my heart rate. And those tweets from endless exhibitors posting pics of loading semi-trucks with their gear before loading in at the show? Yep, excitement in the DanoDome goes up a notch.
Will you be there this year? If you love airplanes, and have always had Oshkosh on your Bucket List, this is the year to go. Why? Because next week, the dysfunctional collection of people that somehow keep getting elected to represent you and me in Washington, DC will possibly vote on a horrible ATC Privatization bill that everyone in aviation except Bill Shuster, Airlines for America and the airlines thinks will be devastating to general aviation. With well over 100 aviation associations coming out strongly against this reaking scheme, we in this family could be facing tough times ahead if this becomes law.
I’m not trying to scare anyone – and I hope and pray I am wrong on this. But if the airline lobbyists are successful in this hostile takeover of our skies, we could see a day when an event so important to us all like EAA AirVenture Oshkosh shrinks to the point that it is but a shell of its former self. When people park their planes and quit flying because the costs are just too prohibitive due to ATC be handed over to Controllers “R” Us and user fees, dare I say it…we may actually see a day when it does not make financial sense for EAA to throw this big aviation family reunion any longer. 

Sure, that is a huge stretch, but think about this: In the EU, they have massive user fees making GA extremely expensive...and they do not have an Oshkosh. If the clown posse succeeds in shoving user fees and privatized ATC down our throats here in the U.S., is it really that hard to visualize a day when we see a decimated GA industry here too? It's not to me or the 100+ associations fighting this with all they have.
So get to Oshkosh now...before it’s too late.

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