Three Perfect Days: Oshkosh, Wisconsin

9:45 PM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor
You’ve seen the “Three Perfect Days” articles in many magazines, walking you through what to do, what to see and what to eat and drink in an exotic world-class city. You learn which bar has the best umbrella drinks or the best Scotch collection, and are told of backstreet cafés with the perfect tapas.
This is not that article, because there are no umbrella drinks in Wisconsin, only pints of New Glarus Spotted Cow. And the "tapas" are fried cheese curds.
I am on one of United’s 737-900s outbound from Chicago to KDEN on my way back to Oregon from three perfect days in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I was reading a “Three Perfect Days” story about Paris, and it prompted me to see how that article might look if it were written to cover my three perfect days at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017.

DAY ONE: Cocktails on the Veranda, and a Pushy Media clown
My Oshkosh this year started a little wobbly, as I had to fly out of KORD early Monday after a RON at the Hilton O’Hare Airport due to one of those flight cancellation snafus that does not have an obvious reason and where the airline is changing their story by the hour. You an read the ugly details of that fiasco here.
After finally arriving at the show a few hours late due to the flight early Monday into KATW, my first order of business is always to make the 56.3-mile hike from the show grounds to the Quonset Hut where the Media Credentials are issued. Since I cannot get into the show grounds without the all-important wristband in my media credential packet, I am forced to schlepp my entire load of equipment out to the freeway from the Bus Park.
Sometimes a long walk in hot, humid weather with your office strapped heavily to your back is a great way to make the brain come up with tactics to solve the problem at hand. My brain said “Hey Dan, just ask some nice media people with a car to let you ride back into the show grounds with them.” Great plan, except for one minor thing: Not all the media that cover this show are aviation people, so it is possible to find a few embedded clowns. And boy did I find one:
At the Media Quonset Hut, I hop into the back seat of a high-end black SUV after the driver grunted his approval of allowing me to ride with them. When I asked where they were from, more muffled grunts. When the car approached the first traffic monitor (of many) as you drive into the show, the driver flashed his Media Pass around his neck and grunted something about “driving to the flight line” because, you know, he is MEDIA. Anyone in aviation media knows nobody drives to the flight line unless they are piloting one of a tiny number of highly-authorized vehicles or maybe one of Oshkosh’s famous crop-top VW bugs. If this joker was trying to BS his way to the flight line in his big, black SUV because he thought he was entitled, the traffic monitor was not buying it.
These traffic people at AirVenture are seasoned veterans, and have heard it all. When the monitor waves Mr. Black SUV into the appropriate Blue Lot where he is authorized to park, he simply steps in the gas and drives straight past the guy. He was going to the flight line, because, you know, he is important, he is MEDIA. But at the next traffic checkpoint, the one that actually lets you past the fence and literally onto the show grounds, a pair of security guards had joined the Traffic Monitor, and were primed and ready for the most important MEDIA dude in the world.
When Media guy rolled down his expensive black SUV window and started telling these security people he was MEDIA and could go anywhere he wanted including the flight line, that was my clue to slither out the back door before anyone associated me with this carload of egomaniacs.
Day One of my Perfect Three Days ended on the patio of The Waters, a very nice country club and meeting venue on the shores of Lake Winnebago. It was the Flying Magazine party, and the food and venue were outstanding. I was joined by Jennifer Adams, a new(ish) blogger who received AirVenture credentials for the first time to write about the show in her Tales From the Terminal blog. We watched HondaJet win the Flying Magazine Innovation Award, well-deserved accolades. The vibe was upbeat, all the heavy hitters of the aviation industry were there, and because it was Flying Magazine, the event was first-class, at the same time both upscale and casual.

DAY TWO:  Bacon. Enough said.

Tuesdays at AirVenture are always busy for me. I start my day with a live EAA Radio interview talking about my #Oshbash social media meetup event, which is Tuesday at 530P in the Press Tent. Only this time, some gremlin chewed on the EAA Radio schedule and they gave my slot to the bigwigs from Ford. Fine by me, Ford Motor Company throws a lot of money at AirVenture. And as per usual with EAA people, the Radio team jumped into action to come up with a solution. This is why things generally always work out at this show. They decided that Fast Eddie and Digital Dave would record my interview, and they found a slot at 2P to drop it into and broadcast on the air. Well done, EAA Radio!
#Avgeeks discussing their day over plates of Pork Barrel BBQ's Bacon Jerky. Photo: Edward Mitchell
Next up was my prerequisite Flight Line announcer’s stand interview, again, talking up #Oshbash. Steve Buss always arranges this, and like the last five Oshbash events, it is flawless. Except when I forget they have the camera in close on my face, and I looked to my left from the best seat in the house and saw myself probably 30’ x 25’ up on the JumboTron screen. I always think this is radio, and I do have a face for radio, but not JumboTrons. Maybe I should have combed my hair.
Tuesday is my biggest day at Oshkosh, because it is #Oshbash day. After a run to the store with @Jen_Niffer for supplies, we set up the Press Tent and enjoyed some great camaraderie with some awesome fellow #Avgeeks. I introduced them to Susan Bell, a web content producer for NASA Earth Sciences that feeds seriously interesting content to a sea of 10 million followers. No pressure there. She is also an IAC aerobatic competitor, and was a great interview. But the real star of the show was the Bacon Jerky:
Last year for #Oshbash I discovered the great line of Bacon Jerky produced by Pork Barrel BBQ. Since the #Avgeeks are all about bacon (they even sleep in a camp named after bacon), at the 2016 #Oshbash, they devoured 60 bags of bacon jerky in 90 minutes. So I upped the order, and this year, the #Avgeeks really came to the party, quite literally. They hammered 72 bags of this delicious treat (which by the way looks exactly like real bacon) in an hour, a new #Oshbash Bacon Eating World Record.
My blissful Tuesday ended over in Camp Bacon where I joined the #Avgeeks for some great Jambalaya and Chili. This annual event was a good time to catch up with a lot of friends I only know online. Well done, Grant and Leslie!

DAY THREE: P-51 Ride of My Life and a Crazy Night Airshow

My last day at AirVenture started like all days at this show, carb-loading at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh dorm breakfast buffet. Nothing fancy, but all-you-can-eat, and at nine bucks, it gets the job done. I needed the nourishment too, as I was headed to the show to *fly* C.E. Bud Anderson’s P-51, Old Crow. O.K., not the real airplane, it was a very high-end full-motion simulator set up by Redbird Flight Simulations and painted in Old Crow colors, right down to the kill stickers on the side. Kudos to Redbird’s engineering and design teams for this one and to Josh Harnagel, their VP, marketing for making it happen.
As you can read here, the flight was the most intense thing I have ever done at any of the many AirVentures I have attended. Let’s just say, I came pretty damned close to auguring Old Crow into the English countryside. I had never “flown” a full-motion simulator, and when you spin an airplane in one, it feels very much like the real thing.
After lunch with Ed Hansen, Lightspeed’s Marketing Chief, to talk social media and how we as an industry reach the younger generation, I spent a few great hours walking the flight line. That’s the cool thing about this show, you can pick any section of any parking area to just stroll through, and you are guaranteed to see row after row of very interesting aircraft. I stumbled upon the section in front of the IAC building where several Christen Eagles and Pitts aerobatic aircraft were on display, along with a few gorgeous Thunder Mustangs and a couple acres of Rutan VariEze and Long-EZ ships. Anything Rutan designed just blows my mind, and this collection did not disappoint.
Last stop before the evening festivities was the Podapalooza, a shindig hosted at the Pipestrel booth by Brad “Launchbad” Marzari. It is a gathering of mostly aviation podcasters, with a few of us #avgeeks thrown into the crowd. If you do not know who Launchpad is, he’s the dude always passing out fine German Chocolates, which paired well with the massive spread of pizza he had delivered.
If it’s Wednesday at AirVenture, everyone is getting stoked about the upcoming night air show. I chose to watch it in Camp Bacon and hang by the campfire, always a great choice. The atmosphere was amped up a bit as several B-25s did low-altitude laps over Camp Scholler waiting for the Air Boss to call them into the Box for a tribute to the Doolittle Raid. Nothing like the symphony of numerous old yet still powerful radial engines chopping the air to bits right over your head.
Around eight o-clock, the B-1B bomber on display appeared from the south and made a very slow but very loud pass along the show line, to everyone’s cheers. He then made a wide turn and came back at the show at what looked like mach .999999, and blasted by in an explosion of fire and noise. Down near the Ultralight runway, a guy in a powered parasail - lit up with night air show regalia – had just lifted off and was doing cute little 360s when the B-1B came by at warp speed, fire spewing many feet behind it. Sure, the bomber was above and to the east of the powered parasail guy, but you have to think that when you are dinking along at 15 KIAS and get dusted by a B-1B flying by you low and very fast, it could easily be quite damaging to the underside of one’s flight suit. I heard one #avgeek say that parasail guy was probably calling the tower for a "Code Brown." Ewww.
Before Team Aeroshell flew a beautiful routine with their ships covered in lights and Matt Younkin flew his act with his Twin Beech 18, a group of skydivers were dumped out of a perfectly-good airplane at 3,500MSL. What was freaky was that an approaching front had lowered the ceiling just to the north of KOSH covering half of the show line, so the jumpers – with fireworks strapped to their boots – fell into the cloud and popped their chutes and lit their fireworks. It was cool to see them spit out the bottom of the cloud layer spewing long trails of sparks, a nice touch and great way to start the night show.
However, that lowering ceiling and approaching front was too much for even Younkin to overcome, and after flying most of his show, the Air Boss called it as rain started falling. Even before Matt could get his Twin Beech back on the ground, it began dumping buckets, and probably 20,000 people began sloshing their way out to their cars or campspots.
Yes, three great days in Oshkosh, no doubt. I saw friends I cherish, and had fun every minute of every day. But I did not make it to many of the sections of the show that I usually see, such as Vintage or Warbirds, never got into the new Blue Barn, and did not catch one forum presentation. I only went into one of the four exhibit halls, and never really strolled Boeing Plaza where all the really heavy aircraft were displayed. And I did not make it even once to Ardy and Ed's for a Drive-in Double, fries and a Black Cow. That is pathetic.
This show has grown over the years, and now surpasses what I can see and do in three days. Going forward, I need to figure out a way to carve out the entire week, because Oshkosh is just that important. And that big. And that cool. And that awesome.
Next summer, expect the “Seven Perfect Days” article, coming soon to Airplanista.

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