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Sun, Jul 23, 2006

First Time AirVenture Attendee Gets Some Helpful Advice

Confessions Of An Oshkosh Newbie

by ANN Correspondent James Aronovsky

I had dreamed of it since I was a pre-solo student pilot. I had heard about it from people who had been to places I could only dream of. Now here I am, a 40+ year old Oshkosh virgin and I really wanted to know what to expect for my very first time. So despite the embarrassment of admitting I had never done it, I decided to ask, hoping I wouldn’t come across as too, well, unflightworthy.

"Comfortable shoes and a big hat" (modeled below) is the mantra of every Oshkosh veteran I interviewed in preparation for my very first time. I had downloaded all the prepared information from the official EAA website, and read the stories in Sport Pilot, but I wanted the real inside scoop of what to expect when attending the world’s largest aviation gathering.

Stewart, a 79-year old former aerospace worker, took one look at me and said "do plenty of walking exercises before you step onto Wittman field, otherwise your shins are gonna kill ya."

Sounds fair enough, but I needed more. But what did I need to BRING?

"Well, don’t bother with a camera, cuz there are going to be a thousand people in front of you", said John, a 10-time volunteer who directs the arriving antiques. This advice to a long-time photojournalist seemed totally irrelevant because I have a camera attached around my neck at all times.

How about binoculars? Dave, my flying buddy said "Nah, you won’t need ’em because everything is going to be real close. We’re all aviators so they don’t keep us so far back."

I was thinking about a little air-band radio to stay connected. "Are you kidding? Why worry about that when you can just listen to the announcers?" This from Bill, an ex-Navy Phantom pilot who gave up most of his hearing for his country.

"Be sure to go to the museum before it gets too crowded." I got this advice from at least half of the veterans. I love museums. All kinds. I drive my wife crazy because as she says "you will read every caption on every display in every room of every floor." but that’s not entirely true. Frequently I just look at the pictures. I always gravitate to the kid’s displays where I can push buttons and touch stuff.

I got all kinds of advice about getting there, where to stay, and what to eat, but thankfully that has all been arranged for me. Every person who had gone to Oshkosh was glad he went (I’m sure some women also go, but none would talk to me; reminds me of my old bachelor days). Those who weren’t going this year just smiled and said I’d have a great time. All told me that the EAA Airventure in Oshkosh is one of the most well-organized and efficient shows in the world.

But I needed to find that one key element that wasn’t officially in all the published material, something that would make me look like a real Oshkosh pro, something that only an experienced Oshkosh visitor would know.

I finally got it from George, a quite fashionable chap who is the only pilot I know who actually owns a silk scarf. He has visited Oshkosh every year for decades and was going on and on about how perfectly wonderful Airventure is. I had to interrupt him to request the bit of information apart from comfortable shoes and a big hat that would get me through the entire week. He lowered his voice, beckoned me closer, and whispered: "They don’t want you to know this, but the one thing they’ve never been able to organize is the weather."

AHA!  I finally got the scoop I was looking for. So the EAA Oshkosh Airventure 2006 isn’t guaranteed to be perfect in every way. I’m going to bring something that wasn’t on the official checklist.

That’s right. I’m packing an umbrella.          

FMI: www.airventure.org

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