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Mon, Aug 02, 2004

The Obsessive, Compulsive Way to the Big O

Yes, Virginia, You CAN See It All

By ANN Contributor Aleta Vinas

It's often said there's so much to do at Oshkosh you have to clone yourself to see it all. I have just one AirVenture under my belt. That hardly qualifies me as an expert. I do have several years of large science fiction (shameless plug - Serenity April 2005) convention experience. It's a lot like an air show, with booths, vendors, talks, and movies -- all scheduled at the exact same time.

What's a poor girl to do?

First, download as much of the schedule as you can about a month before the event. Check off the sessions you want to attend. Get over the fact that there will be several "gotta see" events all happening at once.

At AirVenture, there are more than sixteen forums taking place at the same time in the Honda Motorcycles Forums Plaza alone.

Face it, you can only see one at a time. This is also a good time to consider attending with more than one friend (Hint: pick friends who have video cameras).

Download the schedule again a few days before you leave. Note the changes since the first time you looked. Cross your fingers. Maybe -- just maybe -- that conflict you worried about for weeks has resolved itself.

The EAA AirVenture website has a forum schedule that's listed by topic. If you have a thing for engines, for example, you’ll be able to see forums specific to your interests. You’re also luckier than those of us without a favorite subject because you’ll have fewer forums from which to choose.

Check out the schedule for Theater in the Woods. They have some excellent programs each evening. Fair warning: the appetizer starts at about 1930. The main course is served at around 2030. If you're going to one of the later forums, watch your time. Theater in the Woods is big, but when someone like Harrison Ford or Paul Tibbets is speaking the place fills up quickly.

Getting to the gate at first light goes without saying. The earlier you arrive, the more you get to see. Prioritize. Specifically, save the things that don’t change (like vendors and static displays) for the rare times when none of your favorite forums are scheduled.

Skip the movies, they’ll eat up your time and you can rent ‘em at Blockbuster after the airshow is over.

If your primary goal at Oshkosh is to find that very special widget, then head directly to Fly Market or Aero Mart. Do not stop at Warbirds (till later, though you'll be sorely tempted), do not collect $200.

Be on the lookout for the neat freebies. My alma mater, Embry-Riddle, had some cool stuff to give away at Oshkosh last year -- potholders and pens that turned into jets, for instance. Scope out the ExxonMobil tent for the free tiger tails. Last year, the fashion trend seemed to be hanging them from your baseball cap. This year, it's tying them to your back belt loops.

The EAA Museum is off site. That's going to eat up time in traveling. If possible, try to attend a couple of back-to-back sessions to avoid wasting time going back and forth. Some of the Museum talks may also be scheduled at the Honda Motorcycles Forums Plaza. The good news is that many of the forums are repeated throughout the week, giving you more than one chance to catch that certain speaker or topic.

For example, Debra Winegarten conducts a session called, "Katherine Stinson: Flying Schoolgirl." It's slated for Thursday, from 1100 to 1200, then at the Honda Plaza later that same day between 1600 and 1715. Jill Rutan-Hoffman's forum, "Growing Up With The Modern Wright Brothers." She’s in the Museum Friday from 1400 to 1500 then again at the Honda Plaza Saturday from 1130 to 1245.

Sometimes the same speaker conducts forums on different topics. If you can’t get to one, try the other. The subjects often overlap. Even if they don't, you can use the question and answer time to ask a question on the topic you wanted to hear about. You can also talk to the speaker one-on-one after the forum is over. You may have to wait your turn and move the conversation outside to allow the next speaker to prepare.

The speakers are usually very friendly. They're generally happy to continue speaking on a subject they are passionate about. Burt Rutan’s scheduled subjects are "Life After Airliners," "A Chat with the Rutan Brothers" and "Private Manned Space Programs." Do you think he’d object if you had a question about Voyager?

If you’re going to a talk by one of the top guns like Bob Hoover (right), Chuck Yeager, Dick Rutan, or Rod Machado, get there early -- unless you don’t mind standing room only. You’ll have to wait till the prior forum finishes in order to get a good seat, so try to slide into an aisle seat somewhere. Folks will leave and then you can sometimes slip into a seat closer to the front.

Another possibility is to “plant" yourself. Grab a front seat for the prior forum and sit through it until your speaker arrives.

Don’t forget to check the schedule for the Author’s Corner at the EAA Warehouse. If you’re going to buy one of the author's books, you may as well have it signed while you’re there.

Absent from the author’s corner this year is Wes Oleszewski. He's the creator of Klyde Morris, aviation’s only ant. Klyde appears twice a week here at ANN. Oleszewski’s new book of Klyde cartoons, "Spring Loaded to the Ticked Off Position," was to debut at this year's AirVenture. Despite e-mails requesting a slot in the Author’s Corner. But just a few months before the show, there seemed to be no place for Klyde at AirVenture.

Happily, Wes and Klyde will make their debut in an ant friendly atmosphere at the AOPA Expo in Long Beach (CA), October 21-23. Stay tuned to Aero-News. Details are still in the works.

About 1530 the fun overhead begins. Admit it. It's what you came for, after all. Head out to the flight line and spread a towel (do you really want to lug around a chair all day?). Turn your eyes to the sky for the likes of Patty Wagstaff, Gene Soucy and Teresa Stokes, Mike Mancuso, Jimmy Franklin, Eric Beard and the rest.

You can continue walking around while you watch, but remember, it can be hazardous to your health. There's a good chance you'll run into something.

Remember to bring some snacks. Otherwise, you'll find yourself hankering for something to eat with nothing but a $10 cheeseburger within reach. Drink lots of water while you’re walking from place to place. It’s usually hot and humid. Okay, maybe the air conditioned movie area ISN'T such a bad idea after all. Stay hydrated and don’t worry, there are potties all over the place.

Don’t forget hat AND the sunblock to protect you from sunburn. Going home lobster red is one souvenir you can do without.

These ideas should guide you whether you spend one day or every day at AirVenture. If you're not quite so anal, just come on in. There will be forums, exhibits or planes (or all of the above) that will catch your attention, either on the ground or in the sky, maybe both. The most important thing to remember is to have FUN!

FMI: www.airventure.org, www.aopa.org, www.klydemorris.com

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