Those ‘Oshkosh Moments’ Stay With You for Life (Part 4 of 10)

12:00 PM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

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

7. Goodyear’s Wingfoot One ride (2015) – I received a random email before Oshkosh 2015 from a media rep for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. asking if I would be interested in a media flight on their newest (at the time) airship, Wingfoot One. Are you KIDDING ME? Of course I’d be interested. So the flight was booked. 

When the time/day came at the show, I was working my way back from far out in Vintage to the museum where Wingfoot One was moored…but the clock was working against me. With my camera pack loading me down, I sprinted as best I could across Vintage, through Boeing Plaza, down the main drag towards the front gates, and down the path to the Bus Park. I knew that from there, it was still a significant hike to the museum, and I had about 10 minutes before departure.

At the Bus Park, I realized I was going to miss this golden opportunity, so I asked a dude on a Gator parked at the Kobussen Bus Co. tent if I could pay him to shuttle me over to the museum. As in pure Oshkosh style, he said “let’s roll” and raced me over there in time…and would not take any money for the favor. I love Wisconsin people.

I met up with the media rep, signed my waiver, and we were shuttled in a van out to the mooring area. No airship. Apparently it had something going on with the previous flight and was late returning. When it did come back in, the landing was itself a pure pleasure to watch, as these new-generation airships can handle like a Cessna 150 in final.

We stood nearby as they removed the last load of smiling passengers, but were dismayed as a crew of Goodyear tech people descending on Wingfoot One. They were opening side panels, pulling out equipment and replacing other stuff, lots of commotion. All we could get out of the media rep was that there were “some anomalies” that need to be sorted out. The bad news was that there was an increasing likelihood that this flight was going to be canceled. 

But they sorted out the problem, and 10 of us boarded for what was supposed to be a short intro flight. We headed west of KOSH, and it was very, very cool. Riding in a “blimp’s” gondola feels a lot like being on a boat, it does not move forward, it sorts of wallows gently side to side, up and down, making some forward progress. I was busy shooting tons of photos, when I realized that it has been 30 or so minutes and we were still far west of the field, gently working around some lowering puffy clouds. I learned that when the helium heats or cools, it expands and contracts, changing the weight of the airship significantly. This cause pretty severe nose up and nose down tendencies. So it was quite a joy to watch Goodyear’s skilled pilots working as we went from the shade of the underside of a cloud into the sun, and back under another cloud. Up, down, up, down, lots of control stick movements to keep us on altitude. 

Without an autopilot, this is pure stick and rudder flying 100% of the time. When covering a long football game in one of these airships, Goodyear’s rep told me they have a full crew inside to rotate in and out of the left seat as it takes a lot of concentration and control inputs to coax the airship to do endless laps around a stadium, staying in perfect position for when the network switches to the on-board television camera system for that quick shot before they cut to commercials.

As we continued to slide around the Wisconsin sky, I found out from one of the pilots the airshow was starting and they were expecting a few high-speed, low passes from fighter jets any minute. So ATC was holding us west until the jets came in, did a few hot laps, and were down. No problem, we just got a much longer ride. And the experience was incredible. This ride will forever be one of my favorite “Oshkosh Moments” and I will remember it until I assume room temperature. 

You can read the full Airplanista story on this ride here and see a complete photo gallery of the flight here.

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