What ‘Oshkosh’ Means to Me

2:36 PM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog editor
O.K., obviously I cannot enter my own Essay Competition, the one I am hosting for this year’s #Oshbash at #OSH19. But in reading the great submissions that have already come in, (deadline is Friday, July 5, info to submit your essay is here) I was energized to write out a few thoughts on what The World’s Largest Aviation Celebration means to me.
There are people I know who just do not understand why I HAVE to travel to a little midwestern town called Oshkosh every summer for EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. They know it involves airplanes, food and friends, but beyond that, some fail to fully decode what this show actually means to me personally. I have tried to explain in words, but fail miserably because it is hard to describe the massive nature of this show to anyone who has never attended. You tell them that it is “Burning Man without the Burning Man or the Goat Yoga,” or Coachella without the Hollywood elite, the rap stars and the drugs. You say to them it is the Super Bowl, the World Series and the Stanley Cup Playoffs all rolled into one, without the football, a baseball or the puck. Nothing works.
That is because to us aviators, ‘Oshkosh’ is all of these things together, times 1,000. It is not just an air show, a fly-in or a trade show. It is not just a bunch of like-minded people hanging out for a week. It is not just about seeing old friends, watching extreme aerobatic acts, or cherishing warbirds. It is not just about buying the latest gear or swag.
It is all of those things times 1,000.
This time of year – early summer – is painful for us OSH-bound aviators. All the plans have been made, we’ve gone over our equipment checklists several times, and we’ve watched the buzz build on Twitter. The clocks on our walls have hands swimming in molasses, they move so slowly. Time stands still it seems, as our departure date is still a few weeks away. This is because we who have been lucky enough to go to this wonderful event before knows what’s coming, and it will be glorious.
I will give you an example:
I always stay at the University of Wisconsin dorms, and usually take the Oshkosh city bus into the show. On the first day heading into the show, as the bus travels down W. 20th Avenue along the north side of Wittman Airport (KOSH), it first passes the FBOs. There you spy an incredible number of high-end bizjets and turboprops, it is where the people at the top of our financial food chain park their planes. The crews of these FBOs have somehow managed to wedge in what seems like a couple of hundred of these expensive airplanes into a space usually occupied by maybe 50 of them. You get the immediate sense that anyone who is anyone has flown their Gulfstream, Hondajet or Pilatus into this show. The sight is a literal and visual catalog of what’s flying today in the business aviation world. Seeing this, your excitement builds.
But wait, there’s more:
As the bus continues west towards the show entrance, you start to see a row here and a row there of general aviation mostly single-engine piston airplanes lined up, almost all with tents pitched under a wing. It is the start of the North 40. One row becomes two, and two becomes four. As the bus ride continues, this scene explodes into a sea of GA airplanes and tents, and you can see the massive nature of the North 40. Are there hundreds of airplanes…or is it thousands? It is impossible to count them, as the scene is so big, it goes far beyond what the mind can perceive. At this point – when I see the North 40 for the very first time in the week – I am blown away. The fun has officially begun…this is Oshkosh, and it is insane, in a very good way.

The bus ride continues on a winding path that takes bus traffic down an access road between the EAA Museum and Pioneer Airport. You see the giant EAA HQ building, the beautiful EAA Academy, nice shady spots, and as you spy the scene, you notice something:
Everyone is smiling.
By the time you step off the bus at the Bus Park, it is sinking in that this truly is the world’s largest aviation celebration. Parked cars go on in all directions seemingly for miles, and all you see looking towards the show is very cool aviation stuff and happy aviation people. This is all happening under the fantastic soundtrack of EAA’s Bell 47 helicopters chopping the air to pieces overhead. You notice the distinct sound the -47s when you first step onto the show grounds, but by lunch of the first day, that sound has faded into the background, replaced by endless other yummy aviation sounds from giant jets, hot turboprops, extreme aerobatic show planes, and of course, the symphony that erupts from the numerous monster radial engines hanging off hundreds of perfectly-restored warbirds and vintage aircraft.
I could go on for hours on this topic…but you get my drift. I have just described one tiny sliver of a week filled with all the greatness of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. And yes, it’s OK to just call it ‘Oshkosh’ just do not call it ‘Sloshkosh’ as the WX Gods may hear you and repeat the flooding of 2009.
The…clock…is…ticking down to my July 19th departure. After an easy flight EUG to STL and a quick RON in St. Louis, I will meet up with @DWThomas2786 (Derek Thomas) for a road trip northbound on Saturday, with a planned lunch break at some GA airport restaurant of Derek’s choosing. He’s a retired food service pro and he’s done his homework. This will put me into Oshkosh about 30 hours earlier than usual, so we plan a full day Sunday of eating, airplane arrivals, a trip to visit the FAA ATC facility at FISK, and more eating.
So, what does ‘Oshkosh’ mean to me?

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