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Fri, Jul 21, 2006

Oshkosh On A (Time) Budget

The Best Of OSH In Two Days

by ANN Correspondent Mark Sletten

So you're going to OSH for the first time this year, great! Unfortunately, you have to work during the week and can only be there on Saturday and Sunday. If you want to pack the most AirVenture possible into two days you need a plan, otherwise you'll just wander around ogling all the pretty airplanes (not necessarily a bad thing) and miss some other really cool stuff. Here are some ideas to help you get the most out of your two days.

Let's assume you were able to get at least Friday off for traveling. If you are flying up, check with your airline to see if they offer an AirVenture discount. If not, click here to see a list of air carriers that do -- thank you EAA.  Another option is rideshare (click here for info). People with empty seats are coming from all over the country; you might get a ride in someone's homebuilt hotrod! Incidentally, while you're still at home you might consider perusing the latest maps and schedules. These are great for making a plan if you have been to OSH before and know what you want to see.

The first thing you want to do on arrival at the gate (after paying, of course) is obtain a map; OSH is a BIG event and you'll need one to find your way around. You also want to get an event guide containing schedules and vendor information. Then turn on your portable radio and tune to AM 1210 to listen to EAA radio; if something cool or unusual is happening they're usually talking about it. The best way to get around is walking, so make sure you bring good shoes.

If you prefer, you can go to the shuttle tent and wait for a ride, but be prepared for long lines on the weekends with the big crowds. If you get to the airport by 3:30pm you can catch the daily airshow. Although you can "see" the aerial demonstrations from just about anywhere on the field, you really need to be airshow center (near the tower) to truly "feel" the thrill - nothing sounds like a big radial roaring at full military power!

A lot of AirVenture's perennial attendees plan to leave on Friday because they don't like the big weekend crowds. The mass exodus usually starts right after the airshow. You can watch (and watch out for) the mad frenzy of activity as you walk around the homebuilt parking area - conveniently adjacent the tower - admiring the stunning workmanship that goes into some of these fine amateur-built aircraft. Don't wait until Saturday because many of them will be gone.

Usually by now, it's dinner time. Even if you have transportation you might consider finding dinner on the grounds. Many people complain about the high prices, but if you consider the cost (in time and dollars) to leave the airport, eat and return, it's actually a wash.

After dinner it's time to get to the Theater in the Woods. On Friday night at 7:30pm you'll see a presentation by NASCAR team owner Jack Roush followed by Grand Ole Opry star Mike Snider and his band.

You're first stop on Saturday morning should be the AirVenture Museum and Pioneer Airport. You can easily spend all day in the Museum and not see everything, so click here for a preview. After that you can walk over to Pioneer Airport. This replica of a 1930's era airport is complete with six hangars of vintage aircraft - very cool indeed! While you're over on that side of the airport you might consider visiting the Memorial Wall. Spend a moment of silence honoring those who have gone before us and made it possible to enjoy the unique freedoms of aviation.

Since you're looking at airplanes, why not continue? You can walk thru the park to get back to the flight line, and then make your way to the north end where all the warbirds are parked. Try to get there before lunch because after 1:00pm there is a lot of activity preparing for the airshow.

After lunch it's time to visit the vendor's exhibit area. Most of Saturday's crowd is coming to see the airshow (which you already saw on Friday), and a lot of folks left on Friday to avoid Saturday's crowd, leaving all the vendors to you! Aside from seeing old friends and lots of airplanes, the vendor's exhibits are AirVenture's biggest attraction. Most of the aircraft and kit manufacturers exhibit outdoors in and around the main road between the entrance and the flightline. In these outdoor exhibits, and situated around the outdoor exhibits in four large, 200' X 200' hangars, you'll find just about anything you can imagine that is even vaguely related to aviation -- trust me, you'll be truly astonished at what you'll see.

Although the exhibitors are required to man their booths until at least 5:00pm, some have been known to stay later. Unfortunately, since you've restricted yourself to two days, there is no way you'll see all the exhibitors. I recommend you review the exhibitor list (click here) before you go and pick out the ones you are most interested in. Use your event guide to find the exhibitor's booth and visit those first, then spend the rest of the afternoon wandering!

By now you've spent all day out in the sun (hopefully) and it's time for a shower and a meal. If you're staying near OSH you might consider returning to the airport for the evening movie at the EAA Fly-in Theater. The Fly-in Theater, an outdoor venue, sports a 5-story screen and celebrity introducers. Saturday night you will enjoy a showing of one of the greatest aviation films of all time, Battle of Britain (1969) at 8:30pm.

Sunday is a good day for ultralights. The ultralights are usually flying in the morning when the winds are light. I recommend you walk to the ultralight area at the south end of the field. As you stroll, take the time to admire and marvel at all the classic aircraft, the show aircraft, seaplanes and antiques parked along the way. (A word of caution, many people will be leaving Sunday and you will be walking past and thru aircraft movement areas... be careful!)

Ultralight aviation is truly (and usually literally) at the grass roots of our hobby. The marvelous feeling of freedom we feel while flying is magnified with the wind (and sometimes grass) in your face. If you've never considered flying an ultralight aircraft you should -- the experience is well worth it!

Next on the itinerary is the Fly Market located west of the tower. This is the one time I recommend you use the shuttle service because: 1) not many people are riding all the way out to see the ultralights and 2) the fly market is about as far from the ultralight area as you can get. In the fly market you will find vendors selling everything -- I mean everything, not just aircraft stuff. And best of all, many times on the last day of the show you can get a good deal on an item if a vendor doesn't want to haul it back home. Make an offer, you might be surprised!

And that's pretty much the best of AirVenture in two days. If you're traveling on Monday you can grab some lunch and use the afternoon to return to the things you found most interesting for a more thorough perusal. Although two days really isn't enough to fully experience AirVenture, it's better than not going at all! Don't be surprised if you find a way next year to spend more time there, because I think you'll agree with me that AirVenture surely offers a taste of the best of aviation in America.

FMI: www.airventure.org

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